A new study conducted by astronomers is urging space agencies to monitor cosmic objects near other planets in the solar system due to Earth's risk of getting hit by giant comets.
According to them, our planet could experience showers of debris from comets that can last up to 100,000 years.
Numerous reports have already discussed instances of asteroids entering Earth's atmosphere and near collisions with other space rocks. But in a new study, researchers from the University of Buckingham warned that centaurs pose a greater danger to Earth than asteroids, Discovery News has learned.
As explained by the researchers, centaurs are huge comets with diameters ranging from 30 to 60 miles. These can be found orbiting planets within the outer solar system including Jupiter, Uranus, Saturn and Neptune. These are so bog that some of them act as moons to these planets.
Based on studies, the gravitational pull of these planets can sometimes affect the centaurs' orbit and deflect them on a collision course to Earth. Just like the smaller asteroids, centaurs will most likely disintegrate as they move towards our planet. However, due to their size, the bombardment from these comets could last for a long time and cause serious damage to Earth.
"The disintegration of such giant comets would produce intermittent but prolonged periods of bombardment lasting up to 100,000 years," the researchers wrote in the study.
"A centaur arrival carries the risk of injecting, into the atmosphere...a mass of dust and smoke comparable to that assumed in nuclear winter studies," they added. "Thus, in terms of magnitude, its ranking among natural existential risk appears to be high."
The researchers also believed that the impact caused by centaurs could be responsible for the destruction of ancient civilizations 30,000 years ago, according to Science Recorder.
According to Bill Napier, the co-author of the study, it research team devoted 30 years researching and analyzing the characteristics of centaurs. Based on their data, the risk of a centaur hitting Earth is pretty high.
This is why the research suggests that further studies should be conducted on the centaurs in order to properly assess the possibility of a collision event.
"In the last three decades we have invested a lot of effort in tracking and analyzing the risk of a collision between the Earth and an asteroid," Napier said in a statement according to The Guardian. "Our work suggests we need to look beyond our immediate neighborhood too, and look beyond the orbit of Jupiter to find centaurs."
The study carried out by the researchers was in the journal Astronomy and Geophysics.