Jupiter captures a comet

Jupiter captures a comet

. A planetís gravity may transfer a comet from an extremely elongated orbit (dashed line) into a shortened elliptical orbit (solid line with arrows). The most massive planet, Jupiter, must have captured some short-period comets in this manner. Some of them have orbital periods that are less than that of Jupiter, or less than 12 years, and their orbits reach out to Jupiterís orbit, shown as a partial circle at 5.2 AU.

Copyright 2010, Professor Kenneth R. Lang, Tufts University