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According to Phys.org (This article and its images were originally posted on Phys.org October 10, 2018 at 06:51AM.)
Astrophysicists Mattia Galiazzo and Rudolf Dvorak from the University of Vienna, in collaboration with Elizabeth A. Silber (Brown University, U.S.) investigated the long-term path development of centaurs, solar system minor bodies that originally have orbits between Jupiter and Neptune. The researchers have estimated the number of close encounters and impacts with the terrestrial planets after the so-called Late Heavy Bombardment about 3.8 billion years ago, as well as the possible sizes of craters that occur after a collision with the Earth and the other terrestrial planets. The report is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Centaurs originate mainly from the trans-Neptunian objects, and are among the sources of near-Earth objects. Thus, it is crucial to understand their orbital evolution, which in some cases might lead to collision with terrestrial planets and produce catastrophic events. The researchers studied the orbital evolution of the centaurs toward the inner solar system, and estimated the number of close encounters and impacts with the terrestrial planets after the Late Heavy Bombardment, assuming a steady state population of centaurs. “We also estimate the possible crater sizes. Centaurs can also become active comets, because of the presence of water on a good number of them. Thus, we also computed the approximate amount of water released to the Earth, which is comparable to the amount of water present in the Adriatic sea today. We also found subregions of the centaurs where the possible impactors originate from,” explains Mattia Galiazzo.
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