facebook
twitter
rss
account
search
search
 

Astronomers say 'Lazarus' comets in cosmic graveyard come back to life

Aug. 2, 2013 at 6:45 PM   |   Comments

MEDELLIN, Colombia, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Astronomers in Colombia say they've observed a comet graveyard where some, inactive for millions of years, can return to life as "Lazarus comets."

In the last decade, 12 active comets have been discovered in the main asteroid belt region between Mars and Jupiter, leading a team at the University of Anitoquia in Medellin to set out to investigate their origin.

Millions of years ago, the main belt was populated by thousands of active comets, the researchers said, but this population aged and the activity subsided.

"We found a graveyard of comets," astronomer Ignacio Ferrin said.

"Imagine all these asteroids going around the sun for eons, with no hint of activity. We have found that some of these are not dead rocks after all, but are dormant comets that may yet come back to life if the energy that they receive from the sun increases by a few percent."

Twelve of them are true comets that were rejuvenated after their minimum distance from the sun was reduced a little after they were nudged by the gravity of Jupiter.

The little extra energy they received from the sun was sufficient to revive them from the graveyard, the researchers said.

"These objects are the 'Lazarus comets,' returning to life after being dormant for thousands or even millions of years," Ferrin said.

"Potentially any one of the many thousands of their quiet neighbors could do the same thing."

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Most Popular
1
Massive sunspot sending violent flares toward Earth Massive sunspot sending violent flares toward Earth
2
Google exec breaks skydive record with dive from near-space Google exec breaks skydive record with dive from near-space
3
Powerful new microscope sees cell division in real time Powerful new microscope sees cell division in real time
4
Stone tools reveal Ice Age settlement in the Andes Stone tools reveal Ice Age settlement in the Andes
5
Coal-rich Poland wants concessions in EU climate deal Coal-rich Poland wants concessions in EU climate deal
Trending News
Around the Web
x
Feedback