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Implications of the centaurs, Neptune-crossers, and Edgeworth-Kuiper belt for terrestrial catastrophism

Duncan Steel
Implications of the centaurs, Neptune-crossers, and Edgeworth-Kuiper belt for terrestrial catastrophism (in Volcanism, impacts, and mass extinctions; causes and effects, Gerta Keller (editor) and Andrew C. Kerr (editor))
Special Paper - Geological Society of America (September 2014) 505: 397-410

Abstract

The discovery of many substantial objects in the outer solar system demands a reassessment of extraterrestrial factors putatively implicated in mass extinction events. These bodies, despite their formal classification as minor (or dwarf) planets, actually are physically similar to comets observed passing through the inner solar system. By dint of their sizes (typically 50-100 km and upward), these objects should be considered to be giant comets. Here, I complement an accompanying paper by Napier, who describes how giant comets should be expected to cause major perturbations of the interplanetary environment as they disintegrate, leading to fireball storms, atmospheric dustings, and bursts of impacts by Tunguska- and Chelyabinsk-class bodies into the atmosphere, along with less-frequent arrivals of large (>10 km) objects. I calculate the terrestrial impact probability for all known asteroids and discuss why the old concept of single, random asteroid impacts causing mass extinctions is deficient, in view of what we now know of the inventory of small bodies in the solar system. Also investigated is how often giant comets might be thrown directly into Earth-crossing orbits, with implications for models of terrestrial catastrophism. A theme of this paper is an emphasis on the wide disparity of ideas amongst planetary and space scientists regarding how such objects might affect the terrestrial environment, from a purely astronomical perspective. That is, geoscientists and paleontologists should be aware that there is no uniformity of thought in this regard amongst the astronomical community.


ISSN: 0072-1077
EISSN: 2331-219X
Coden: GSAPAZ
Serial Title: Special Paper - Geological Society of America
Serial Volume: 505
Title: Implications of the centaurs, Neptune-crossers, and Edgeworth-Kuiper belt for terrestrial catastrophism
Title: Volcanism, impacts, and mass extinctions; causes and effects
Author(s): Steel, Duncan
Author(s): Keller, Gertaeditor
Author(s): Kerr, Andrew C.editor
Affiliation: University of Buckingham, Centre for Astrobiology, Buckingham, United Kingdom
Affiliation: Princeton University, Department of Geosciences, Princeton, NJ, United States
Pages: 397-410
Published: 201409
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 37
Accession Number: 2014-085290
Categories: Extraterrestrial geology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 2 tables
Secondary Affiliation: Cardiff University, GBR, United Kingdom
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 201444
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