The Earth has been bombarded by comets and their debris throughout geological time. Rare giant comets are the most massive bodies to enter the inner planetary system and they are major contributors to the mass budget of the zodiacal cloud, generating large surges of cometary dust onto the Earth. Climatic effects, including severe declines in biodiversity, are then expected, and mass extinctions of life may be caused as much by the trauma of prolonged climatic downturn as by the prompt effects of impact. Cometary debris which may have induced the last ice age, and possibly the progenitor comet itself, are identifiable in the contemporary interplanetary environment.


Meteor Shower Oort Cloud Cometary Dust Active Comet Zodiacal Cloud 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • William M. Napier
    • 1
  1. 1.Armagh ObservatoryArmaghNorthern Ireland, UK

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