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Comets and the Missing Planet

  • Michael W. Ovenden (a1) and John Byl (a1)

Abstract

Integrating backwards in time in the circular restricted three-body problem Galaxy-Sun-Comet, for both the real long-period comets and fictitious random sets of orbital elements, we have confirmed van Flandern’s conclusion that there is a statistically-significant clustering of the orbits of real long-period comets, in heliocentric direction, some 5×106 years ago. The clustering is also significant in heliocentric distance, and is more marked if it is assumed that the comets have gone round the Sun more than once since the epoch of maximum clustering. We suggest that the “event” discovered by van Flandern is not the explosive disruption of a planet formerly in the asteroid belt, but the latest in a series of minor catastrophies, such as the collisional break-up of a pair of large asteroids.

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Copyright

References

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1. Ovenden, M.W., Vistas in Astronomy 18, 473, 1975.
2. Ovenden, M.W., Recent Advances in Dynamical Astronomy, ed. Tapley, B.D.and Szebehely, V.(Dordrecht: Reidel) p. 319, 1973.
3. Ovenden, M.W., Long-time Predictions in Dynamics, ed. Szebehely, V. and Tapley, B.D. (Dordrecht: Reidel) p. 295, 1976.
4. van Flandern, T.C. Private Communication, 1976.
5. van Flandern, T.C. Communication to I.A.U.Colloquium #41.
6. Schmidt, M., in Galactic Structure, ed. Kuiper, G.P. and Middlehurst, B.M. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press) p. 513, 1965.
7. Ovenden, M.W. and Byl, J., Astrophys.J. 206, 57, 1976.
8. Marsden, B.G. and Sekaninan, Z., Astron.J. 78, 1118, 1973.

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