Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Oort cloud comets occasionally obtain orbits which take them through the planetary region. The perturbations by the planets are likely to change the orbit of the comet. We model this process by using a Monte Carlo method and cross sections for orbital changes, i.e. changes in energy, inclination and perihelion distance, in a single planet-comet encounter. The influence of all major planets is considered. We study the distributions of orbital parameters of observable comets, i.e. those which have perihelion distance smaller than a given value. We find that enough comets are captured from the Oort cloud in order to explain the present populations of short period comets. The median value of cos i for the Jupiter family is 0.985 while it is 0.27 for the Halley types. The results may explain the orbital features of short period comets, assuming that the active lifetime of a comet is not much greater than 400 orbital revolutions.
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