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Solving the mystery of how comets are born

29 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Detailed analysis of data collected from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft show that comets are the ancient leftovers of early solar system formation, and not younger fragments resulting from subsequent collisions between other, larger bodies.

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Newly discovered distant solar system objects resonate with Neptune

22 July 2016 Astronomy Now

The search for distant solar system objects has found two more small worlds far outside the orbit of Neptune, beyond the Kuiper Belt. The new objects, 2014 FZ71 and 2015 FJ345, are in resonance with Neptune’s orbit, implying that these worlds either have interacted with Neptune in the past or are continuing to do so.

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Extreme trans-Neptunian objects lead the way to Planet Nine

13 June 2016 Astronomy Now

In the race towards the discovery of Planet Nine, scientists from around the world strive to calculate its orbit using the tracks left by the small bodies that move well beyond Neptune. Now, astronomers from Spain and Cambridge University have confirmed that the orbits of the six extreme trans-Neptunian objects that served as a reference to announce the existence of Planet Nine are not as stable as originally thought.

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Giant comets could pose danger to life on Earth

26 December 2015 Astronomy Now

Over the last two decades, the discovery of hundreds of giant comets, termed Centaurs, on unstable orbits in the outer planetary system means that these objects pose a much greater hazard to life than asteroids, according to a team of UK astronomers. Centaurs are typically 50 to 100 kilometres across, or larger, and a single such body contains more mass than the entire population of Earth-crossing asteroids found to date.