Green is an unusual color in astronomy. It is the color to which our eyes are most sensitive, and yet few things in the night sky actually appear green. There are, for example, no green stars, only yellow-white, red, and blue ones. But there can be green comets, and we are still learning why.Continue reading “Why don’t Green Comets Have Green Tails?”
The new movie “Don’t Look Up” — now available on Netflix — is not your usual sci-fi disaster film. Instead, it is a biting parody on the general public’s dismissal and indifference to science. While the movie is about a comet on a collision course with Earth, filmmakers originally meant “Don’t Look Up” to be a commentary on climate change denial. But it also is reflective of the current COVID denial and mask/vaccine resistance, as well as our existing political polarization. It also lays bare our preoccupation with social media. While the movie is sometimes funny, it can also be depressing and frustrating.Continue reading “The Real Science Behind the Movie “Don’t Look Up””
Since early this year, skywatchers on Earth have been tracking Comet Leonard, a kilometer-wide dirty snowball made of ice, rock and dust. Now, as it heads towards a close encounter with the Sun on January 3, 2022, several spacecraft – with the distinct advantage of having an unobstructed front-row seat to the action – have been keeping an eye on how the comet is changing and evolving as it heats up.Continue reading “This Video of Comet Leonard (with Venus and Mercury) will Blow Your Mind”
A mega-comet – potentially the largest ever discovered – is heading from the Oort Cloud towards our direction. Estimated to be 100–200 kilometers across, the unusual celestial wanderer will make its closest approach to the Sun in 2031. However, the closest it will come to Earth is to the orbit of Saturn.Continue reading “The Biggest Comet Ever Seen Will get as Close as Saturn in 2031”
It’s good to remember how little we know about the outer solar system. Humans only really began observing it within the past 100 years, and given the constraints on that observations there are still plenty of things we don’t know about. For example, researchers recently found an object almost the size of a dwarf planet that is inbound to the inner solar system, with an estimated orbital period of over 2 million years, more than six the lifetime of the modern human species.Continue reading “A Newly-Discovered (Almost) Dwarf Planet Will Come Surprisingly Close in 2031”
In outer space, an object’s location has a huge impact on its temperature. The closer the object is to its star, the hotter it most likely is. Heat then plays a major role in what materials are present in that object’s atmosphere, if it has one. Lighter elements such as hydrogen and helium and much easier to take a gaseous state and create an atmosphere. So it came as a surprise when two different teams found much heavier elements in the atmosphere of comets that were relatively far away from the Sun. And one of those comets happened to be from another solar system.Continue reading “Comets Have Tails of gas, Dust… and Metal?”
What if we had the ability to chase down interstellar objects passing through our Solar System, like Oumuamua or Comet Borisov? Such a spacecraft would need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice, with the capacity to increase speed and change direction quickly.
That’s the idea behind a new mission concept called the Extrasolar Object Interceptor and Sample Return spacecraft. It has received exploratory funding from NASA through its Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.
“Bringing back samples from these objects could fundamentally change our view of the universe and our place in it,” says Christopher Morrison, an engineer from the Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation-Tech (USNC-Tech) who submitted the proposal to NIAC.Continue reading “Extrasolar Object Interceptor Would be Able to Chase Down the Next Oumuamua or Borisov and Actually Return a Sample”
Astronomers finally managed to observe a comet nearing the end of its life. And they found that it’s covered in talcum powder. They have no idea why.Continue reading “A Comet Seen at the end of its Life. It’s covered in talcum powder”
Whenever I wipe the dust off my coffee table or catch a glimpse of dust motes floating in sunlight, my spacey mind always wonders, is any of that cosmic dust?
It just might be. But the amount of space dust that lands on our planet every year might surprise you.Continue reading “Earth Gains 5,200 Tons of Dust From Space Every Year”
Just when do comets get their signature coma? Conventional wisdom says it only happens when they get close enough to the sun, but new research suggests it starts when they are still beyond the orbit of the planets.Continue reading “Comets Already Grow a Coma out in the Kuiper Belt”