Jupiter Throwing Rocks

by | Jan 10, 2020 | Asteroids, Jupiter | 0 comments

Jupiter Throwing Rocks

In general, we are here to bring you the all that is new in space and astronomy, but sometimes something comes up that doesn’t quite fit that bill, but still needs to be addressed. In this week, when the headlines are filled with ugly things, we want to take a moment to instead celebrate the silliness that came about on Twitter when The New York Post Tweeted that “New research finds Jupiter is flinging asteroids at Earth.”  We’re not sure what it was about this specific tweet that caused collective absurdity to arise, but something in our collective unconscious decided this is the moment when we make Jupiter trend. From Daniel Aubry responding “Rooting for Jupiter tbh,” to including Sue the T.rex stating “APPARENTLY I’VE GOT A BEEF WITH JUPITER” … well the hilarity goes on and on.

We’re not entirely sure what brought this story to the attention of this newspaper at this particular moment in time, but we do know who’s research inspired it. Our friend Kevin Grazier has been working on modeling how Jupiter’s gravity influences the orbits of minor objects in our solar system, and has published a series of papers detailing how Jupiter doesn’t so much protect us from incoming comets and asteroids, but rather haphazardly fires things in many directions, including directly at us.

In a new article (https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2019MNRAS.490.4388G/abstract) published in December’s Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Grazier and his colleagues describe how Jupiter may in fact systematically hurt things toward the interior planets. Objects from the outer solar system often get caught up in orbits near the ice and gas giants, becoming what are called Centaurs. These objects’ orbits are often unstable because the massive pull of Jupiter can repeatedly pull them of course, orbit after orbit, according to Grazier and collaborators’ numerical simulations. Centaurs are regularly converted into Jupiter family comets with orbits spanning from out near Jupiter and diving all the way in among the inner planets… where they can hit us.

This is an ongoing process. New objects are regularly becoming Centaurs as they fall in from the outskirts of the solar system, and Jupiter regularly creates to comets. This means that if we perfectly map all the objects in the inner solar system today, we will still have to worry about the new things joining us near the sun tomorrow.

Why? Well, for that answer, we encourage you to check out Twitter, or at least the tweets we’ve linked to on our website, DailySpace.com

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