A cluster of comets and asteroids caught in the shadow of Jupiter are capable of posing a significant hidden menace towards the Earth. If there are drastic enough changes in their orbits, these space rocks can possibly crash into the Earth or one of its neighbors. This conclusion has been drawn from a study which identified more than one object that might experience such a shift in the orbit. Identification and monitoring the remaining objects hidden within this population can help in identifying potential dangerous elements for Earth well in advance.
Jupiter is the biggest planet in our solar system and a lot of comets and asteroids are concealed by the shadow of the planet. A number of these, like the moons of the planet, are bound to Jupiter by means of gravitation. These other bodies follow a same kind of orbit like Jupiter itself and circle the sun. In the case of these groupies, high inclination with an angle exceeding 40 degrees with the solar system’s plane of the solar system is related to low levels of eccentricity, thereby causing them to have an orbit that is nearly-circular.
A paper published recently has examined the possible effects of a switch from low to high eccentricity of these stable objects that are orbiting close to Jupiter, leading to the creation of an orbit more oval in shape. As per Kenta Oshima who is the study author and is currently researching at Japan’s National Observatory of Astronomy, this kind of a shift would spell out doom for Earth.
According to Oshima, there is a possibility that a large number of undetected asteroids which are potentially hazardous exist at locations of high-inclination with respect to these objects. Although difficult to spot from the Earth right now, once these objects start to move around the Earth, it is likely that they will become visible by surveys searching for celestial bodies posing danger.