Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 70: Jul-Aug 1990

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites












The Oort Cloud of comets hovering at the far frontiers of the solar system is, as we know from SF#57, not without its anomalies. Here, let us assume that it really does exist, even though we cannot see it.

From a new book by I. Asimov (title below), we learn that this remote haze of icy fluff, the Oort Cloud, may really have about 90% of the angular momentum of the entire solar system. It was already sufficiently anomalous to discover that the planets possess fifty times the angular momentum of the much more massive sun. (See ABB3 in The Sun and Solar System Debris.) Astronomers have been attempting for years to explain this 50:1 split. Now, with the Oort Cloud apparently having ten times the angular momentum of the planets, the situation is much worse. According to Asimov, the solar-system angular momentum is split as follows:

Oort Cloud 90% All of the planets 9.8% The sun 0.2%

The total mass of the Oort Cloud is estimated to be roughly that of Saturn.

The recent flyby of Halley's Comet created this dilemma. It was discovered that Halley was a chunk containing 140 cubic miles of ice - much larger than anticipated for this "typical" comet. If the estimated 2 trillion comets are, on the average, Halley's size, the Oort Cloud is a thousand times more massive than previously thought. This, combined with estimates of Oort Cloud distance and angular velocity leads to the almost ridiculous distribution of solar-system angular momentum tabulated above. This will keep the theorists busy for a while.

(Asimov, Isaac; Frontiers: New Discoveries about Man and His Planet, Outer Space and the Universe, New York, 1989, p. 270. Cr. C. Ginenthal)

Comment. Perhaps the Oort Cloud isn't there after all. Or, if it is, it isn't rotating as rapidly as thought. In any case, the accepted theory of solarsystem formation is in trouble.

Reference. Details concerning our catalog The Sun and Solar System Debris may be found here.

From Science Frontiers #70, JUL-AUG 1990. 1990-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987