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Researchers look at Oort cloud asteroids

Posted December 9, 2014

Sky & Telescope reports on “A fresh look at a nagging problem—asteroids moving in comet-like orbits” where the research “concludes that asteroids must make up about 4 percent of the vast, distant Oort Cloud of comets.” Four researchers wrote that the usual picture of the Oort cloud as a collection of icy comets in the outer reaches of the solar system is incomplete. “We use simulations of the formation of the Oort cloud to show that ~4% of the small bodies in the Oort cloud should have formed within 2.5 au of the Sun, and hence be ice-free rock-iron bodies. If we assume these Oort cloud asteroids have the same size distribution as their cometary counterparts, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope should find roughly a dozen Oort cloud asteroids during ten years of operations.”

Oort cloud

 An artist’s rendering of the Oort cloud and the Kuiper belt (inset). Sizes of individual objects have been exaggerated for visibility. Credit: Wikipedia

Andrew Shannon, Alan Jackson, Dimitri Veras and Mark Wyatt wrote about their research, “Eight billion asteroids in the Oort cloud.” The authors are from Cambridge, Arizona State University and University of Warwick. To address the question of how common asteroids should be in the Oort cloud, they said they performed simulations of the Oort cloud’s formation, “considering small bodies starting with dynamically cold orbits with semimajor axes from 0.5au to 50 au.”

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