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Jupiter – friend or foe? III: the Oort cloud comets

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 November 2009

J. Horner
Affiliation:
Astronomy Group, Physics & Astronomy, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK
B.W. Jones*
Affiliation:
Astronomy Group, Physics & Astronomy, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK
J. Chambers
Affiliation:
Carnegie Institution of Washington, 5241 Broad Branch Road NW, Washington DC, 20015, USA

Abstract

It has long been assumed that the planet Jupiter acts as a giant shield, significantly lowering the impact rate of minor bodies on Earth. However, until recently, very little work had been carried out examining the role played by Jupiter in determining the frequency of such collisions. In this work, the third of a series of papers, we examine the degree to which the impact rate on Earth resulting from the Oort cloud comets is enhanced or lessened by the presence of a giant planet in a Jupiter-like orbit, in an attempt to more fully understand the impact regime under which life on Earth has developed. Our results show that the presence of a giant planet in a Jupiter-like orbit significantly alters the impact rate of Oort cloud comets on Earth, decreasing the rate as the mass of the giant planet increases. The greatest bombardment flux is observed when no giant planet is present.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

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