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Letters to Nature
Nature 313, 36 - 38 (03 January 1985); doi:10.1038/313036a0

Periodic comet showers and planet X

Daniel P. Whitmire & John J. Matese

Department of Physics, PO Box 44210, University of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette, Louisiana 70504, USA

The discovery1 that Pluto's mass is insufficient to explain the discrepancies in the motions of the outer planets has led to the prediction of a tenth planet (planet X) of mass ~1–5 Mcircle plus beyond the orbit of Pluto (50–100 AU)2,3. Further, the existence of a belt or disk of comets beyond the orbit of Neptune (35 AU) has been proposed in connection with some theories of the origin of the Solar System4,5 as a possible source of short-period comets6 and indirectly as a source of long-period comets7,8. Here we point out that the existence of both planet X and the comet disk at their expected distances may explain not only the observed planetary motions and the origin of comets, but also the recently reported 28-Myr periodicity in terrestrial cratering9–11 and in mass extinctions11,12. The cratering period is associated with the precession of the perihelion of planet X caused by the perturbations of the outer planets.

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