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SoCal Science Café Message Board The Science Café Blog › AIAA: First Inner Oort Cloud Objet Discovered

AIAA: First Inner Oort Cloud Objet Discovered

Dr. Brian H.
San Diego, CA
Post #: 521 (8/18) reported, "A huge comet-like object has been spotted inside the orbit of Neptune. The object, at least 30 miles wide, is on the return leg of a 22,500-year journey around the sun, astronomers announced today." The object, 2006 SQ372, was discovered by researchers by "applying a computer searching algorithm to data taken from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey II (SDSS II)." According to the researchers, "It's basically a comet, but it never gets close enough to the sun to develop a long, bright tail of evaporated gas and dust." The team believes the object comes from the inner edge of the Oort Cloud.
New Scientist (8/18, Hecht) added that the object is "the first known visitor from the inner part of the Oort cloud. Many comets originate in the outer Oort cloud, a shell of icy bodies that surrounds the solar system." The researchers said that "2006 SQ372 is beyond Uranus and will likely get kicked out of the solar system altogether" over the next "couple hundred million years." According to the article, "Other objects from the inner Oort cloud are likely to be found soon, as powerful new survey telescopes are built."
Author proposes Oort cloud flagship mission. In an article for the Space Review (8/18), author Taylor Dinnerman wrote that with the new discovery, NASA should consider an "ultimate flagship mission" to the Oort cloud. "The size of the probe would be large, since it would need lots of fuel and redundant communications systems and instruments. It is probably an ideal candidate for launching on an Ares 5." A probe could land on an object like 2006 SQ372, and then piggy back towards the Oort cloud. Dinnerman speculated that the framework necessary to make this mission successful would go beyond just the probe, but also require improvements to the Deep Space Network and maybe a suite of antennae on Earth and the Moon. "Such a mission would build on NASA's experience with expensive long-range 'Flagship' missions such as the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the ongoing spectacularly successful Cassini probe," Dinnerman wrote. It would also "force governments and universities to think about education on a much longer time scale than they are used to" because of the decades-long planning and implementation.
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