The Mass Disruption of Oort Cloud Comets

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Science  21 Jun 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5576, pp. 2212-2215
DOI: 10.1126/science.1070226

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We have calculated the number of dormant, nearly isotropic Oort cloud comets in the solar system by (i) combining orbital distribution models with statistical models of dormant comet discoveries by well-defined surveys and (ii) comparing the model results to observations of a population of dormant comets. Dynamical models that assume that comets are not destroyed predict that we should have discovered ∼100 times more dormant nearly isotropic comets than are actually seen. Thus, as comets evolve inward from the Oort cloud, the majority of them must physically disrupt.

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