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A review of comet and asteroid statistics

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The statistics of Earth-approaching asteroids are first summarized, and an enhanced frequency of objects smaller than 100 meters is noted. Superposed on these random hazards may be a periodic one of new comets due to galactic tides of the Oort Cloud with a period of 26–36 Myr (Rampino, 1998). New asteroids and comets are being found evermore frequently because new telescope-and-detector systems are coming on line. These are intended primarily for the discovery of dangerous objects, but a beginning has been made with the study of statistics of main-belt asteroids. In addition to trans-Neptunian objects, cis-Neptunian “Centaurs” are recognized, which may be a link in the evolution of short-period comets and thereby contribute to the flux of Earth approachers. With the new equipment coming on line, we are beginning to see that the global hazard will be mostly quantified within a few decades. We do see a shortage in astrometric follow up fainter than about the 20th magnitude.


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Correspondence to Tom Gehrels.

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Gehrels, T. A review of comet and asteroid statistics. Earth Planet Sp 51, 1155–1161 (1999) doi:10.1186/BF03351590

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  • Mass Extinction
  • Oort Cloud
  • Main Belt
  • Dangerous Object
  • Kuiper Belt Object