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Chapter 12: Remnants of Rock & Ice

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1 Chapter 12: Remnants of Rock & Ice
Asteroids, Comets & Pluto

2 Small Bodies in the Solar System
Small bodies, the leftover “scraps” from the formation of the Solar System, fall into three distinct groups: asteroids rocky or metallic in composition most are located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter

3 Small Bodies in the Solar System
Kuiper belt comets made mostly of ice orbit the Sun beyond Neptune orbit in same direction and plane as the planets Oort cloud comets orbit at the outer fringe of the Solar System spherically distributed about the Sun

4 A Note on Names asteroid – a rocky leftover planetesimal orbiting the Sun comet – an icy leftover planetesimal orbiting the Sun, regardless of its size or whether it has a tail meteor – a flash of light in the sky caused by a particle entering the atmosphere, regardless of its origin meteorite – any piece of rock that fell to the ground from space, regardless of its origin

5 Properties of Asteroids
They are small in size. the largest one, Ceres, is only 1,000 km across They are not spherical in shape. shaped more like “potatoes” gravity not strong enough to compress rocky material odd shapes imply that some are fragments from asteroid collisions

6 Properties of Asteroids
Asteroid orbits are more elliptical & inclined than planetary orbits. Most asteroids are located in the asteroid belt. between the orbits of Mars & Jupiter Some share Jupiter’s orbit. two swarms at 60º in front of and behind Jupiter known as Trojan asteroids A few cross Earth’s orbit. they are called Near-Earth asteroids

7 The Asteroid Belt Jupiter’s gravity disrupted the orbits of those asteroids whose periods were an integer fraction of Jupiter’s. orbital resonances created gaps… like in Saturn’s rings known as the Kirkwood gaps This explains why no planet formed in the asteroid belt. tugs from Jupiter’s gravity prevented the planetesimals from accreting into a planet

8 Measuring Asteroid Properties
Size the larger the asteroid, the more sunlight it will reflect measuring the brightness and knowing reflectivity & distance gives us the size. reflectivity is calculated from the visual & IR brightness Mass measure the effect gravity has on a passing spacecraft or a moon use Kepler’s & Newton’s laws Density calculate from mass & size mass  volume

9 Measuring Asteroid Properties
Shapes measure the asteroid’s changes in brightness as it rotates the asteroid’s shape can be reconstructed from this we can bounce radar signals off of Near-Earth asteroids

10 Measuring Asteroid Properties
Composition examine the spectrum of sunlight reflected off the asteroid look for non-Solar absorption lines in the spectrum Three categories of asteroid composition: very dark asteroids which contain Carbon-rich materials found in outer regions of the asteroid belt brighter asteroids which contain rocky materials found in inner regions of the asteroid belt asteroids which contain metals such as Iron

11 Rocks Falling from the Sky
meteor – a flash of light caused by a particle which enters Earth’s atmosphere. most of these particles are the size of a pea they completely burn up in Earth’s atmosphere meteorite – a rock which is large enough to have survived its fall to Earth they caused a brighter meteor…sometimes called a fireball How can you tell that you have a meteorite? they have a higher metal content than terrestrial rocks they contain Iridium and other isotopes not found in terrestrial rocks

12 Meteorite Impact Chicago, March 26, 2003 (note deleted)
© 2014 Pearson Education, Inc.

13 Types of Meteorites Based on composition, meteorites fall into two basic categories: primitive about 4.6 billion years old accreted in the Solar nebula processed younger than 4.6 billion years matter has differentiated fragments of a larger object which processed the original Solar nebula material Each type of meteorite can be divided into two subcategories: primitive meteorites can be either stony, containing rocky minerals & metals, or Carbon-rich, containing Carbon compounds or even water processed meteorites can be either metallic, high-density Iron/Nickel like Earth’s core, or rocky, containing low-density material similar to earth’s crust

14 Origin of Meteorites Primitive meteorites condensed and accreted directly from the Solar nebula. the stony ones formed closer than 3 AU from the Sun the Carbon-rich ones formed beyond 3 AU from the Sun, where it was cold enough for Carbon compounds to condense Processed meteorites come from large objects in the inner Solar System. the metallic ones are fragments of the cores of asteroids which were shattered in collisions the rocky ones were chipped off the surfaces of asteroids, Mars, and the Moon by impacts

15 Comets Recent Comets: One of the most beautiful sights in the sky.
Throughout human history, these “hairy” stars would appear. like planets, they moved with respect to the fixed stars unlike planets, they were not confined to the ecliptic and disappeared after several weeks They were taken as omens of good or bad fortune. Recent Comets: 1986 Halley’s Comet 1996 Comet Hyakutake 1997 Comet Hale-Bopp Dozens per year too dim to be seen by eye Hale-Bopp Hyakutake

16 Comets The Orbits of Comets: Edmund Halley (1656 – 1742)
first to realize that comets orbit the Sun predicted the return of a comet which had been seen every 76 years the comet returned in 1758 and now bears his name The Orbits of Comets:

17 Composition and Structure of Comets
Comets are “dirty snowballs”…ice mixed with rock and dust. ices are H2O, CO2, CO, NH3, CH4 nucleus the “dirty snowball” how the comet appears far from the Sun coma surrounds nucleus when near the Sun sublimated gas & dust plasma tail ionized gas swept back by Solar wind dust tail dust particles swept back more slowly by radiation

18 Nucleus of Comet A "dirty snowball"
Source of material for comet's tail © 2014 Pearson Education, Inc.

19 A Comet’s Journey

20 A Comet’s Journey The SOHO telescope observed Comet NEAT (C/2002 V1) round the Sun on Feb 16, 2002. courtesy of SOHO/LASCO consortium. SOHO is a project of ESA and NASA. A comet can only visit the Sun a few hundred times before losing all its ice to sublimation. the comet may then disintegrate or the rocky remains may stick together as an asteroid


22 The Origin of Comets We can tell where comets originate by measuring their orbits as they visit the Sun. Most approach from random directions and do not orbit in the same sense as the planets. they come from the Oort cloud 50,000 AU distant Others orbit along the ecliptic plane in the same sense as the planets. they come from the Kuiper belt AU distant


24 Pluto and Neptune Pluto has an eccentric and inclined orbit.
For 20 of its 248-year orbital period, it is actually closer to the Sun than Neptune. such was the case between 1979 and 1999 An orbital resonance between the two planets keeps them from ever colliding! Resonance Neptune completes three orbits for every two orbits that Pluto makes.

25 Pluto and Charon Pluto’s moon, named Charon, was discovered in 1978.
it orbits Pluto every 6.4 days This allows us to measure the mass of Pluto using Kepler’s Law #3. Eclipses allow us to measure the diameters of both Pluto & Charon. Hubble ST image of Pluto & Charon Pluto’s density (2 gm/cm3) is larger than expected for an icy world. Charon is less dense (1.6 gm/cm3) Explanation similar to Earth/Moon Charon formed from large impact Pluto lost lower density outer layers Reconstructed image of Pluto

26 Hubble's View of Pluto and Its Moons
© 2014 Pearson Education, Inc.

27 Planet or Kuiper Belt Comet?
The classification of Pluto has recently come into question. Pluto has many properties in common with Kuiper belt comets. it orbits in the vicinity of the Kuiper belt several Kuiper belt comets have orbital resonances with Neptune its composition of ice and rock is similar to comets it has an atmosphere of Nitrogen which sublimes when Pluto is closest to the Sun some Kuiper belt comets have moons Pluto has some properties which differ from Kuiper belt comets. its surface is much brighter; presumable because the Nitrogen atmosphere refreezes on the surface rather than escaping it is much larger than most Kuiper belt comets But…it is smaller than Triton, which presumably once roamed the Kuiper belt! This is why Pluto is part of a new class of Dwarf Planets

28 How big can a comet be? © 2014 Pearson Education, Inc.

29 Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 This comet was discovered in orbit about Jupiter in 1992. a previous encounter with Jupiter broke the nucleus into a string of fragments the comet was on a collision course with Jupiter Something similar had happened to Callisto. This crater chain is evidence that a string of nuclei once impacted it.

30 Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 One by one, each fragment collided with Jupiter in July 1994. infrared cameras observed hot plumes ejected from the planet material from deep inside Jupiter was ejected, and fell… left dark spots Such impacts probably occur on Jupiter once every 1,000 years. This was a reminder to us that impacts still occur in the present!!

31 Meteor Showers Earth is impacted by an estimated 25 million small particles each day which cause meteors. When the Earth passes through the trail of a comet, the number of particles impacting the Earth’s atmosphere increases. We call this a meteor shower. You can see upward of 1 meteor per minute from one location. Showers occur on the same dates each year, corresponding to when the Earth crosses a given comet’s orbit. The meteors appear to emanate from one point in the sky.

32 Meteor Showers Meteors appear to shoot from the point directly ahead in the direction that the Earth is moving.


34 Meteor Showers Meteor showers are named after the constellation from which the meteors appear to emanate i.e., the constellation which lies in the direction of the Earth’s motion.

35 Impacts and Mass Extinctions on Earth
We know that larger objects have impacted Earth Meteor Crater in northern Arizona caused by a 50-meter asteroid impact occurred 50,000 years ago 65 million years ago, many species, including dinosaurs, disappeared from earth Sedimentary rock layer from that time shows: Iridium, Osmium, Platinum grains of “shocked quartz” spherical rock droplets soot from forest fires

36 Impacts and Mass Extinctions on Earth
Elements like Iridium, rare on Earth, are found in meteorites. Shocked quartz, found at Meteor Crater, forms in impacts. Rock droplets would form from molten rock “rain.” Forest fires would ensue from this hot rain. All this evidence would imply that Earth was struck by an asteroid 65 million years ago. In 1991, a 65 million year old impact crater was found on the coast of Mexico. 200 km in diameter implies an asteroid size of about 10 km across called the Chicxulub crater

37 Iridium Layer No dinosaur fossils in upper rock layers
Thin layer containing the rare element iridium Dinosaur fossils in lower rock layers © 2014 Pearson Education, Inc.

38 Impacts and Mass Extinctions on Earth
We have a plausible scenario of how the impact led to mass extinction. debris in atmosphere blocks sunlight; plant die…animals starve poisonous gases form in atmosphere

39 Could it happen again? This chart shows how frequently objects of various sizes will impact Earth. The odds of a large impact are small … but not zero!

40 Influence of the Jovian Planets
Gravity of a jovian planet (especially Jupiter) can redirect a comet. Jupiter has directed some comets toward Earth but has ejected many more into the Oort cloud.



43 ?

44 What have we learned? What are the three major groups of small bodies in the Solar System? Asteroids, comets of the Kuiper belt, comets of the Oort cloud. The groups are distinguished by their orbits. Describe asteroid sizes, shapes, and orbits. Most asteroids are small, potato-shaped, and orbit in the asteroid belt. Trojan asteroids share Jupiter’s orbit. Near-Earth asteroids have orbits that pass near Earth’s orbit. Why didn’t a planet form in the region of the asteroid belt? Orbital resonances with Jupiter disrupted orbits of planetesimals, preventing them from accreting into a planet. Resonances also cause the gaps in the asteroid belt today.

45 What have we learned? How do we measure asteroid properties?
Orbits from observations of asteroid motion and application of the law of gravity. Sizes by comparing infrared and visible brightness, combined with distance. Masses from gravitational effects on moons or passing spacecraft. Densities from size and mass. Shapes from brightness changes with rotation or radar. Composition from spectroscopy. How is a meteor different from a meteorite? meteor: a flash of light caused by a small particle entering our atmosphere. meteorite: a rock that survives the plunge from space to reach the ground.

46 What have we learned? How are meteorites categorized?
Two major categories: primitive meteorites are remnants from the Solar nebula and processed meteorites are fragments of larger objects that underwent differentiation. Primitive meteorites may be either stony or carbon-rich. Processed meteorites may be similar in composition either to Earth’s crust or to its mantle or core. Why do meteorites differ from one another? Whether a primitive meteorite is stony or carbon-rich depends on where it formed. Carbon-rich meteorites formed farther from the Sun (beyond about 3 AU) where it was cool enough for carbon compounds to condense. Processed meteorites made of crust-like material are chips from the surface of larger objects. Processed meteorites made of mantle- or core-like material are fragments from the interior of a shattered asteroid.

47 What have we learned? What are comets made of?
Ice mixed with rocky dust, giving them a “dirty snowball” composition. What happens to a comet as it approaches the Sun? The nucleus – all there is when the comet is far away and frozen – heats up and gases begin to sublime from its surface. Escaping gases carry some dust along. The gas and dust form a coma and tails: a plasma tail of ionized gas and a dust tail.

48 What have we learned? How do we know that vast numbers of comets reside in the Oort cloud and Kuiper belt? Analysis of orbits shows where comets in the inner Solar System have come from. Based on the number of comets seen in the inner Solar System and the relatively short times during which comets can survive in the inner Solar System, we conclude that the Oort cloud and Kuiper belt must contain enormous numbers of comets. Why don’t Pluto and Neptune collide? A stable orbital resonance ensures that Pluto always remains a safe distance from Neptune, even though it is sometimes closer to the Sun than Neptune.

49 What have we learned? What is surprising about Pluto’s density, and how might it have come to be? It is slightly higher than expected for material that condensed in the outer Solar System. It may be the result of a giant impact the blasted away Pluto’s low-density outer layers and led to the formation of its moon, Charon. Why do we think Pluto is a Kuiper belt comet? Both its composition and orbit are more similar to Kuiper belt comets than to other planets. Even its size is not that much bigger than other known Kuiper belt comets, and it is smaller than one object that almost certainly once roamed the Kuiper belt –Neptune’s moon Triton.

50 What have we learned? What happened to Jupiter in 1994?
It was struck by a string of nuclei that were all fragments of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. Such impacts probably occur on Jupiter only once every 1,000 years, on average. How often do small particles impact Earth? Constantly – an estimated 25 million small particles create meteors each day. Even more hit the Earth during meteor showers.

51 What have we learned? Why do we think the dinosaurs were driven extinct by an impact? Careful analysis of sediments from the time of the dinosaurs’ demise shows evidence of a major impact. An impact crater has been found, and we have a plausible scenario to describe how the impact led to the mass extinction. Do future impacts pose a real threat to our civilization? The probability of a major impact in our lifetimes is very low, but not zero. The threat is still being assessed.

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