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back to article Comet ISON seen eructating 300,000km-long methane and CO2 BELCH

Comet ISON, the keenly awaited "comet of the century" candidate, is already blasting out huge amounts of gas and dust despite being half a billion kilometres away from the Sun, according to the latest images from NASA's Spitzer space telescope. Spitzer pics of comet ISON 500m km from the Sun The space rock is due to pass …

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re. belching

If it's methane then it's probably farting.

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Re: re. belching

Actually, AIUI there is very little, if any, methane in farts.

I read about it in a book this very week.

In a chapter that discusses the subject of farts quite extensively.

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Joke

Visible already in Lousiana

Sorry - my bad, it's just another platform fire - but it's belching fire and gas and will be visible for months before this one gets here.

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Dirty Snowball

I wonder if there will ever be an article or documentary that describes the nature of a comet without using the phrase "dirty snowball".

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Re: Dirty Snowball

Hmmm... what about "Dirty Sun-jizz" ?

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Re: Dirty Snowball

To be fair to the author, the dirty snowball was the official name of Fred Whipple's hypothesis that comets were essentially single lumps of ice with a bit of dirt rather a collection of smaller rocky bodies containing a little ice (the flying gravel bank). It was only really confirmed when Giotto took a good hard look at Comet Halley.

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Mushroom

Re: Dirty Snowball

We could start calling it a Hot Fudge Sunday.

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Coat

Re: Dirty Snowball

Put that hammer down Lucifer...

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Holmes

Re: Dirty Snowball

I salute you for that Pournellian ice cream reference.

I think it is "Hot Fudge Sundae" though.

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Re: Dirty Snowball

"We could start calling it a Hot Fudge Sunday."

Given comet's organic compound mixture, 'Rancid snowcone' might be a better description.

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Coat

Re: Dirty Snowball

"I think it is "Hot Fudge Sundae" though."

...which falls on a Tuesdae.

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Oh - it's in space...

At first sight I thought you meant the defunct electronics and white goods flogger...

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Anonymous Coward

how old?

It will be interesting to calculate, as our estimates of the comet's mass get better, how long it could have been spewing huge volumes of methane and CO2. That should give insight into how old it is, and into the history of the solar system.

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Re: how old?

It might just be passing through very rarely, thus not outgas a lot before it returns to the 3K background radiation stove and freezes again.

It' easier to check the orbit. Which is probably hyperbolic...

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Boffin

Re: how old?

Nearly certainly NOT hyperbolic, but a very elongated ellipse from an Oort cloud. You have a lot more than three bodies in the Oort cloud, where it will be traveling with lowest velocity. Indeed, it could be the first time that this object lost enough energy to take a very eccentric ellipse right by the sun, rather than a more circular ellipse out at the Oort cloud. A hyperbolic orbit is interstellar.

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Paris Hilton

Re: how old?

> A hyperbolic orbit is interstellar.

Correct, but comets with "hyperbolic" orbits are announced from time to time and apparently no-one gives a rat's arse about what that would actually mean. Which I really don't get...

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What happened to the possible MARS HULK SMASH that we were talking about back when Byalistok Window Breakage occurred?

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You just highlighted the problem with giving the press any kind of probabilities: They've got a bad habit of depicting anything other than a 0% possibility as a near certainty.

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Re: Mars Hulk Smash

C/2013 A1: 1:120,000 chance of impact, down from 1:8,000 :(

Nominal distance: 76,325 miles.

Minimum distance: 9,085 miles.

Maximum distance: 146,570 miles

JPL link: http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=C%2F2013%20A1;orb=0;cov=0;log=0;cad=1;rad=0#cad

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Can some boffin explain how it works

What sort of 'headwind' is it experiencing? Or is it an illusion? Is the tail actually following on behind like a smeared-out mini-atmosphere or does it quickly slow down(why?) leaving a trail of comet dust like a cosmic vapour-trail?

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Boffin

Re: Can some boffin explain how it works

It's a combination of light pressure and solar wind acting on the various stuff evaporating from the comet. The small gas and dust particles are affected more than the main body of the comet so start lagging behind.

When a comet picks up a large sideways component to its velocity you quite often get multiple tails as different size gas molecules and dust particles are sorted by the acceleration they pick up from the light.

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Re: Can some boffin explain how it works

The comet tail always points away from the sun, regardless of which direction the comet is traveling. It's the radiation pressure of the light which pushes the (very light) particles away from the sun.

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Nitpick Nitpick Nitpick

"The space rock is due to pass through our solar system later this year, when boffins hope it will survive a close pass with the Sun without breaking up, providing a spectacular display in Earth's skies in November and December that could outshine the Moon. However, it could also prove to be a damp squib if the Sun roasts it into pieces before then."

I am pretty sure that if it is 500 Million Kilometres from the sun, it is already passing through our solar system. Earth is 149,600,000 km so, over 1/3 of the distance to the comet. 500 million KM would put it between Jupiter (741 million km) and the Asteroid Belt (404 million km)

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"Flying ice mountain trailing vast clouds of gas"

Shirley you mean 'falling', right?

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Anonymous Coward

"Comet ISON seen eructating 300,000km-long methane and CO2 BELCH" ..

And while it's using solar power. tsk ..

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Boffin

Naming?

Could someone in the know explain the naming to me? It makes no sense: what if the ISON discovers another comet? Will that be ISON2? ISON The Sequel? Return of the ISON?

Don't comets normally get named after their discoverers, as in the actual *people? Hence, shouldn't this be Nevski-Novichonok, just like Levy-Shoemaker or Halley or what-not?

I'm confused that even NASA calls it "comet ISON".

How does the official naming system work?

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Re: Naming?

Nevski and Novichonok did not initially report cometary activity. That was picked up by other observers. With that, the rock was nicknamed after the telescope network used instead. The official name is C/2012 S1. It is based on the periodicity (C: non-periodic), the year of discovery, the half month within the year (S: 1st half of October) and a sequence number.

Nomenclature rules: http://www.iau.org/public/themes/naming/#comets

One set of rules for the popular names: http://www.cbat.eps.harvard.edu/cometnameg.html

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Facepalm

And of course, we Aussies are to be denied pretty much all of the fireworks, since the damn thing is set to pass directly over the North Pole. I mean, what part of "ecliptic plane" do these buggers not understand?!?

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Bronze badge

If it was on the ecliptic plane rather than passing over the North Pole, wouldn't that make it hit us? Are you sure that's what you want?

p.s. even the Earth doesn't quite follow the plane of the solar system ;-)

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It's farting, not falling.

And don't call me Shirley.

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FauxScienceSlayer

The trifecta of elitist directed, taxpayer funded Carbon frauds are climate forcing, 'sustainable' energy and 'peak' oil. Carbon climate forcing was all about FORCED Carbon commodity marketing. No sustainable energy produces the energy required for it's own production. Hydrocarbons are natural and occur though out the Universe, as mention above comment has frozen Methane crystals. Earth produces Hydrocarbons as a by-product of fission, see "Fracturing the Fossil Fuel Fable".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: FauxScienceSlayer

Al Gore has been literally fattened by fossil fuels along with the Loony Left PC Health and Safety Brigade

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Re: FauxScienceSlayer

'Earth produces Hydrocarbons as a by-product of fission, see "Fracturing the Fossil Fuel Fable".'

What a fascinating thought! So, Hydrocarbons are not made of hydrogen and carbon, but of Mercury and Actinium!

Small hint: Carbon is one of the end states of nucleosynthesis in stars, along with Oxygen and Nitrogen. Stars that go supernova can produce heavier elements, such as Iron and heavier.

The Actinium series decays ultimately to Actinium, which is stable.

The Radium series decays ultimately to Mercury, which is stable.

The Neptunium series decays ultimately to Titanium, which is stable.

The Thorium series decays ultimately to Lead, which is stable.

Note the dearth of hydrogen, which is not a product of fission or carbon, which is also not a product of fission.

This is only physics 101 stuff, taught in high school!

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Bod

CO2 and Methane...

... Oh no! It's obviously all our fault.

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Margin of error

It's pretty amusing that they don't know whether it's 3.2 billion or 3.2 trillion kilograms, but they know it's 3.2 and not 3, or 4. Gotta love science.

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Anyone else had to google "eructation"?

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