‘Naked’ Comets Could Expose Solar System’s Ancient Origin Story
Two objects with comet-like orbits flew through the solar system in 2013 and 2014, but with little to no activity on their surfaces. At left is C/2013 P2 Pan-STARRS and at right, C/2014 S3 Pan-STARRS. Credit: University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy
What’s a comet that doesn’t look like a comet? The question sounds contradictory, but astronomers believe these objects exist. As comets pass through the solar system, they bleed ice and dust as the Sun’s effects wash over their small bodies. Over time, some of the objects can keep going like ghost ships — just without the ices that used to produce a show.
There already is a class of objects called damocloids that are believed to be extinct comets, but scientists believe they have found something new with two mysterious visitors — what they call “naked” comets — from the outer Solar System.
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