Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mama Comet

Comets, it turns out, can have babies.

Just before I started this blog I got to see one of my favorite comets ever - Comet Holmes - in the December sky. It was supposed to be a ho-hum not very bright comet, invisible to the naked eye, but suddenly exploded in brightness, becoming a million times brighter in less than a day, surprising everyone. It became easy to see, even through the glare of light from a small town. I watched it from my backyard for several nights running.

What happened was, Holmes spawned a bunch of mini-comets, rushing away from it at 280 mph, some of them big enough to have their own tails. No one has ever seen this happen before. Even though Comet Holmes was/is only a coupla miles wide, the sphere of dust and ice ejected was bigger than the sun. You can see the sphere of material pretty clearly in the picture. This is actually what it looked like through binoculars. Not as detailed, of course, but you could see the bright center and the less dense cloud surrounding it.

There is a theory that comets brought water and amino acids to Earth, thus providing it with the building blocks for life. So those baby comets may go on to create babies of an entirely different kind one day, on a planet, a moon.

The comet remained intact, and is returning in 2014, six years later. I'll be looking forward to seeing what happens this next time.


ArtSparker said...

To this twisted mind, I'm thinking of the giant space egg of the lat lamented Weekly World news...sort of like if the sperm went backwards...And if the egg hadn't turned into an omelet, as reported.

Clowncar said...

I loved the late WWN. Batboy. Hilary Clinton's alien love child. Satan's face in the 9-11 World Trade Center dust cloud.