Feeds

Solar system braces for brightest ever comet

Nothing to see for 2m years

Security for virtualized datacentres

If a group of US astronomers is right, about two million years from now our solar system could be graced by the brightest comet ever.

The potential comet is a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, designated 2003 EL61. Astronomers at Caltech have plotted its likely path, and have found that a close encounter with Neptune could disturb its path enough to send it tumbling into the inner solar system, where it would become a short period comet.

Alternatively, the encounter with Neptune could slingshot the planetoid away from the sun, into the Oort cloud, or even out of the solar system altogether.

Caltech's Professor Mike Brown announced his predictions at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle.

He explained that the planetoid is very unusual, being mostly rock covered in a thin layer of ice. Objects in the Kuiper belt tend to have more ice than 2003 EL61, suggesting that it suffered a massive collision at some time in its history.

This could have knocked off most of its icy covering, and could explain its extremely fast rotation. The planetoid spins so quickly - a full rotation once every four hours - that it is rugby-ball shaped rather than near-spherical.

Professor Brown also speculated that after the encounter that spun 2003 EL61, some of the icy mantle could have reformed into smaller satellites. Some of these, he says, could already have made their way into the inner solar system. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.