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posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday January 07 2020, @04:11PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the ice-delivery dept.

Jupiter is Flinging Comets Toward Earth:

Some astronomers believe that Jupiter, instead of protecting Earth from dangerous comets and asteroids, is actively flinging objects into the inner solar system. New research now demonstrates this complex process in action.

A popular theory suggests Jupiter, with its tremendous mass, acts like a gigantic shield in space, sucking in or deflecting dangerous debris left over from the formation of the solar system. That makes sense, but the Jupiter Shield theory, as it's known, has been falling out of favor over the past two decades.

A leading critic of this theory, Kevin Grazier, formerly of the West Point U.S. Military Academy and NASA, has sought to debunk this idea for years. He has published several studies on the subject, including a 2008 paper titled, "Jupiter as a Sniper Rather Than a Shield." Indeed, with each successive paper, Grazier has increasingly demonstrated the ways in which Jupiter, instead of being our protector, is actually—though indirectly—a pernicious threat.

Grazier's latest foray into the subject involves a pair of companion papers, one published in the Astronomical Journal in 2018 and the other in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Journal in 2019. The first paper takes a look at the complex ways in which objects in the outer solar system are affected by the Jovian planets, namely Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus, while the second paper looks at a specific family of icy bodies and how they're transformed by Jupiter into potentially deadly comets. Looking at the findings of the two papers, it seems the Jupiter Shield theory is in serious jeopardy.

"Actually, I wouldn't say that it's in jeopardy—I would say that it has been laid to rest." Grazier told Gizmodo in an email. "Our simulations show that Jupiter is just as likely to send comets at Earth as deflect them away, and we've seen that in the real solar system."

To be clear, this was a very good thing when the Earth was young, as comets and asteroids delivered the essential ingredients required for life. Today, however, these impacts are most certainly not good, as they could trigger mass extinctions similar to the one that extinguished non-avian dinosaurs some 66 million years ago.

Grazier's papers present new models that demonstrate the complex astrophysical processes required to convert distant celestial bodies into local threats. Working with collaborators from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Southern Queensland, Grazier showed how objects in the scattered disc, a ring within the Kuiper Belt that contains many Neptune-approaching planetesimals, are influenced by the Jovian planets. They also show how Centaurs, a group of icy bodies in orbit beyond Jupiter and Neptune, are transformed by Jupiter into potentially Earth-threatening comets, specifically a collection of objects known as Jupiter Family Comets.

Using simulations, the researchers found that "Centaur objects, Jupiter Family Comets, and objects in the Scattered Disk are not dynamically distinct populations—that the orbits of objects in these families evolve under the gravitational influence of the Jovian planets, and objects can move between these three dynamical classifications many times over their lifetimes," said Grazier.


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  • (Score: 5, Funny) by Freeman on Tuesday January 07 2020, @04:21PM (2 children)

    by Freeman (732) on Tuesday January 07 2020, @04:21PM (#940665) Journal

    It's been giving us the evil eye for quite some time and we've just barely determined that it's actually trying to kill us?!?!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Red_Spot [wikipedia.org]

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    Forced Microsoft Account for Windows Login → Switch to Linux.
    • (Score: 2) by Username on Wednesday January 08 2020, @01:34AM (1 child)

      by Username (4557) on Wednesday January 08 2020, @01:34AM (#940862)

      I think we have to send some nukes to jupiter in response. You know, to make them stupider.

      • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Wednesday January 08 2020, @04:00PM

        by Freeman (732) on Wednesday January 08 2020, @04:00PM (#941076) Journal

        Sure, and when it flings half of them back at us, we'd deserve it.

        --
        Forced Microsoft Account for Windows Login → Switch to Linux.
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by jelizondo on Tuesday January 07 2020, @04:43PM (5 children)

    by jelizondo (653) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 07 2020, @04:43PM (#940670) Journal

    "Our simulations show that Jupiter is just as likely to send comets at Earth as deflect them away [...]"

    Makes sense that the complicated dance of orbital mechanics would fling some objects out of the solar system and some into the solar system, but it does not follow that they be aimed at Earth.

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday January 07 2020, @04:49PM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 07 2020, @04:49PM (#940671) Journal

      They are very carefully and deliberately aimed at Earth.

      --
      Employers should not mandate wearing clothing. It should be a personal choice. It only affects me. Junk can't breathe!
    • (Score: 3, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 07 2020, @04:51PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 07 2020, @04:51PM (#940673)

      If you'd read up on this, you would know that Jupiter always aims for the ladies on Earth.

    • (Score: 2) by EvilSS on Tuesday January 07 2020, @06:03PM

      by EvilSS (1456) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 07 2020, @06:03PM (#940689)
      Maybe Jupiter is just a dick. Like that neighbor that tosses their dog's crap into your yard.
    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 07 2020, @06:18PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 07 2020, @06:18PM (#940695)

      Jupiter has heard our prayers, and is trying to send the Sweet Meteor of Death to cleanse the Earth.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday January 07 2020, @06:59PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday January 07 2020, @06:59PM (#940709)

      Jupiter is a BIG player - with no particular agenda for or against the Earth.

      I think over the long time scale, Jupiter probably has cleared a lot of junk out of the inner solar system, either sucking it up, capturing it as a moon, or flinging it out.

      Over the shorter timescale, when Jupiter flings something - it's got a really low chance of hitting Earth, but... it's still got a chance.

      --
      John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
  • (Score: 5, Funny) by aristarchus on Tuesday January 07 2020, @04:51PM (10 children)

    by aristarchus (2645) on Tuesday January 07 2020, @04:51PM (#940674) Journal

    Planetary Mechanics at West Point? And the conclusion is that we are being attacked? Sometimes the "search for a budget-justifying enemy" goes a bit too far. It's like the CIA's early experiments with LSD in the Fifties: give a spy hallucigens, and guess what they see?

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    • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Tuesday January 07 2020, @06:29PM

      by Freeman (732) on Tuesday January 07 2020, @06:29PM (#940699) Journal

      Goats. Oh, was it a rhetorical question?

      --
      Forced Microsoft Account for Windows Login → Switch to Linux.
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Coward, Anonymous on Tuesday January 07 2020, @07:02PM

      by Coward, Anonymous (7017) on Tuesday January 07 2020, @07:02PM (#940710) Journal

      Grazier's latest foray into the subject involves a pair of companion papers [...]
      "Actually, I wouldn't say that it's in jeopardy—I would say that it has been laid to rest." Grazier told Gizmodo in an email.

      The first rule of science journalism: Don't ask an author about the significance of their own paper. Find someone else to quote.

    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday January 07 2020, @07:06PM (1 child)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday January 07 2020, @07:06PM (#940713)

      give a spy hallucigens, and guess what they see?

      The Rum Diaries - highly recommended.

      --
      John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 09 2020, @05:42AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 09 2020, @05:42AM (#941340)

        "It's 400 proof, man!"
        "What? There's no such thing as 400 proof."

    • (Score: 4, Funny) by DannyB on Tuesday January 07 2020, @07:34PM (4 children)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 07 2020, @07:34PM (#940726) Journal

      give a spy hallucigens, and guess what they see?

      There is a knock at the door. It's a sales droid hawking expensive dog nail polish. Available in many bright colors.

      I politely decline and indicate my disinterest. But before I get the door closed, my dog comes running up the stairs barking to see who is here. Now that he knows I have a dog, he won't take no for an answer. There is a bit of a struggle to get the front door closed. Once it is closed, he starts yelling and banging on the door and then windows. He is working his way around the house banging on everything in sight and yelling. I call the police. He is in the back yard banging on the glass door insisting that I must purchase his necessary essential product. When the police arrive he has ran to the neighbor's back yard two doors down. They catch him. As they are taking him away he is yelling and screaming that he will be back!

      --
      Employers should not mandate wearing clothing. It should be a personal choice. It only affects me. Junk can't breathe!
      • (Score: 2) by PartTimeZombie on Tuesday January 07 2020, @10:48PM (3 children)

        by PartTimeZombie (4827) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 07 2020, @10:48PM (#940793)

        Don't leave us hanging.... what happened next?!

        • (Score: 3, Funny) by DannyB on Tuesday January 07 2020, @10:56PM (2 children)

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 07 2020, @10:56PM (#940797) Journal

          That's when I realized it was 5 PM and woke up. Time to go home.

          --
          Employers should not mandate wearing clothing. It should be a personal choice. It only affects me. Junk can't breathe!
          • (Score: 2) by PartTimeZombie on Wednesday January 08 2020, @12:14AM (1 child)

            by PartTimeZombie (4827) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 08 2020, @12:14AM (#940836)

            Ok then. As long as you're all right.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 08 2020, @05:25PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 08 2020, @05:25PM (#941118)

              probably the dog can secretly talk and knows how to call his friends at the k-9 unit ...

    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 08 2020, @12:38AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 08 2020, @12:38AM (#940848)

      Send the new Space Farce in to assassinate a Jupiter General.

  • (Score: 1) by Roo_Boy on Tuesday January 07 2020, @11:48PM

    by Roo_Boy (1762) on Tuesday January 07 2020, @11:48PM (#940822)

    "You can have a comet! You can have a comet! And you can have a comet! You can all have a comet!"

    --
    --- The S.I. prototype "Average Punter" is kept in a tube of inert gas in Geneva.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 08 2020, @12:18AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 08 2020, @12:18AM (#940840)

    Jews called peter are nice people.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 08 2020, @02:52AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 08 2020, @02:52AM (#940890)

    "Some astronomers believe that Jupiter, instead of protecting Earth from dangerous comets and asteroids, is actively flinging objects into the inner solar system."

    That's because we used to be allies but with all the recent political tensions between us Jupiter is sending a warning that we do not want to mess with it. For one thing it's tired of all the probes we keep sending there. Hopefully this results in nothing more than a bunch of sanctions because Jupiter is far more massive than us and we do not want to go to war with it. It's a war we can't possibly win.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 09 2020, @05:52AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 09 2020, @05:52AM (#941341)

      We didn't have this asteroid-flinging problem before. But then the U.S. withdrew all their troops from Jupiter, leaving an unstable interim government.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 08 2020, @08:44AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 08 2020, @08:44AM (#940963)

    Immanuel Velikovsky

    lol

  • (Score: 2) by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us on Wednesday January 08 2020, @04:01PM

    by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us (6553) on Wednesday January 08 2020, @04:01PM (#941077) Journal

    It all depends on the trajectory (not always an 'orbit' but close enough) of the object, its mass, and its position relative to Jupiter. Some get flung in-orbit, some get flung out-orbit. If it's really "just as likely" to send them to the inner system then it isn't a shield nor a sniper. It's just an object with the possibility to change trajectories.

    I realize that this still makes Grazier's point that it isn't a shield (although it would be interesting to speculate about what the asteroid belt would be without it....) But perhaps one must emphasize the other position to bring this back to balance. Like... a course correction? :)

    --
    Keep everyone ignorant of the magical world! KEEP AMERICA OBLIVIATE!
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 08 2020, @05:29PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 08 2020, @05:29PM (#941119)

    it seems that the area from jupiter to the sun is smaller then from jupiter to ... uhm .. infinity?

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