We investigate the distribution of Oort cloud comet perihelia. The data considered includes comets having orbital elements of the two highest quality classes with original energies designated as new or young. Perihelion directions are determined in galactic, ecliptic and geocentric equatorial coordinates. Asymmetries are detected in the scatter and are studied statistically for evidence of adiabatic galactic tidal dynamics, an impulse-induced shower and observational bias. The only bias detected is the well-known deficiency of observations with perihelion distances q > 2.5 AU. There is no significant evidence of a seasonal dependence. Nor is there a substantive hemispherical bias in either ecliptic or equatorial coordinates. There is evidence for a weak stellar shower previously detected by Biermann which accounts for ≈ 10% of the total observations. Both the q bias and the Biermann star track serve to weaken the evidence for a galactic tidal imprint. Nevertheless, statistically significant asymmetries in galactic latitude and longitude of perihelia remain.A latitude asymmetry is produced by a dominant tidal component perpendicular to the galactic disk. The longitude signal implies that ≈ 20% of new comets need an additional dynamical mechanism. Known disk non-uniformities and an hypothetical bound perturber are discussed as potential explanations. We conclude that the detected dynamical signature of the galactic tide is real and is not an artifact of observational bias, impulsive showers or poor data.
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- Oort Cloud Comet Perihelion Asymmetries: Galactic Tide, Shower or Observational Bias?
John J. Matese
Patrick G. Whitman
Daniel P. Whitmire
- Springer Netherlands