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Death once had a near-Sarah Palin experience.

calendar   Saturday - December 17, 2011

Space Scientists: We’ll Use The Chewbacca Defense On This One, Thanks

“If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit”


Giant Ice Comet Flies 1.37 Million Miles Through The Sun’s Coronna

Exposed to 2,000,000°F Heat

Comet Comes Out The Other Side, Flies Away

Say What???



Just so you know, a comet generally goes along at about 18 miles a second. Ignoring for a moment the parts of it’s trajectory close to the corona on both the entry tangent and the exit tangent, it still took about 22 hours for comet Lovejoy to zip halfway around the sun just 87,000 miles about the surface (about a third of the distance between Earth and the Moon). A ball of ice. Flying through 2 million degrees of Hell for a whole day. And there was something left, AND it managed to break away from the Sun’s gravitational field. Now, getting back to those tangents: Mercury, the nearest planet to the Sun, has a wobbly orbit that averages a radius of about 36 million miles. 36 million miles out (23 days travel for a comet) the surface temperature of Mercury is 800&deg F, hot enough to melt lead and tin. And every mile closer to the Sun it gets hotter. Do your own math to figure out how far out from the Sun you have to go to find the point of state transition, when the temps get hot enough to melt ice and boil it away in the relative vacuum of space. Probably at least a week’s additional journey, both coming and going.

Oh, and all you Star Trek fans will know that to come out the other side, the comet had to pick up enough velocity to achieve solar escape velocity. Which is 384 miles per second. Which just also happens to be the escape velocity of the solar system, so this baby ain’t coming back.

Homework problem: assume what was left weighs in at 10 million tons on Earth. Traveling in an semi-circular arc of RSun + 87K miles at 384mps and in a gravitational field of GSun (the sun’s surface gravity is 28 times ours), compute the centrifugal forces applied to the comet on it’s trip. Try to rationalize how the comet held together when those forces were greater than the bond strength holding the atoms together.

Comet Lovejoy Survives Fiery Plunge Through Sun, NASA Says

A newfound comet defied long odds on Thursday, (Dec. 15), surviving a suicidal dive through the sun’s hellishly hot atmosphere, according to NASA scientists.

Comet Lovejoy plunged through the sun’s corona at about 7 p.m. EST (midnight GMT on Dec. 16), coming within 87,000 miles (140,000 kilometers) of our star’s surface. Temperatures in the corona can reach 2 million degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 million degrees Celsius), so most researchers expected the icy wanderer to be completely destroyed.

But Lovejoy proved to be made of tough stuff. A video taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft showed the icy object emerging from behind the sun and zipping back off into space.

Naturally, stargazers and their gangs were expecting a fast melt and a puff of steam. What the hey, right, it’s only the sun. Um, nope, not this time.

SDO is one of many instruments that scientists — eager to record and study the comet’s presumed demise — trained on Lovejoy as it streaked toward the sun.

“We have here an exceptionally rare opportunity to observe the complete vaporization of a relatively large comet, and we have approximately 18 instruments on five different satellites that are trying to do just that,” Karl Battams, a scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., wrote on the Sungrazing Comets website, before Lovejoy’s closest solar approach.
...
Battams greeted news of Lovejoy’s improbable escape with surprise and delight.

“I expected a diffuse dust tail to survive (for several hours) before fading away but NOT any kind of nucleus!” he tweeted. “I’ve worked with sungrazers for 8yrs; today was the most amazing day I’ve ever had with them!”

Lovejoy has a core about 660 feet (200 meters) wide. It belongs to a class of comets known as Kreutz sungrazers, whose orbits bring them very close to the sun.
...
Lovejoy is quite large for a sungrazing comet, and experts expected it to die an impressive death. The website Spaceweather.com, for example, predicted Lovejoy would blaze as brightly as Jupiter or Venus in the sky as it neared the sun.

Battams also expected a good show, saying the comet might even be visible from the ground around sunset today in the Northern Hemisphere.

“I do think that it will put on a spectacular show for us and will be the brightest Kreutz-group comet that SOHO has ever observed,” Battams wrote last week.

Though the early returns are still coming in, those forecasts appear to be on the money. Observations from various spacecraft do indeed show Lovejoy flaring up significantly as it neared our star.

Seems the comet left it’s tail behind. What’s just so darned amazing is that anything, anything AT ALL, came out the other side. Nearly a full month of ice melting temps coming in, and nearly a full month of temps hot enough to vaporize anything while going around. And there’s still a significant chunk of something left. If we still had a functioning space program, I’d want to send up a catcher satellite and grab a piece of whatever is left. That’s the stuff you want to build spaceships with, fer shure.

Lovejoy didn’t exactly come out of its hellish adventure unscathed. Only 10 percent of the comet — which was probably millions of tons — survived the encounter, said W. Dean Pesnell, project scientist for NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which tracked Lovejoy’s death-defying plunge.

And the comet lost something pretty important: its tail.

“It looks like the tail broke off and is stuck” in the sun’s magnetic field, Pesnell said.

Yeah, but something made it, when nothing should have. Scientists don’t have that answer yet, although they’re trying the “Gee, it must have been much much bigger than we thought” Giant Mass Excuse. Which is pretty much the Wookie Defense. Which means they just don’t know. “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit.” Besides, the bigger the comet was, the larger the acceleration forces there would be as it went around.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 12/17/2011 at 01:43 AM   
Filed Under: • Amazing Science and DiscoveriesSpace •  
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