The Lovejoy Meltdown

Posted: June 1, 2015 by oldbrew in solar system dynamics
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Tim Cullen analyses the ‘comet that didn’t die’ and gives the Roche limit and other cherished concepts of ‘settled science’ a sharp poke in the ribs.


The Lovejoy Meltdown

In December 2011 the mainstream huddled around their computers to watch the fiery death of the Sun grazing Comet Lovejoy [designated C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy)] as it approached perihelion.

But when Comet Lovejoy emerged from the behind the Sun [on its return journey] the mainstream realised they were actually watching the meltdown of Settled Science.

Comet Lovejoy was discovered by Terry Lovejoy on 27th November 2011 and it was subsequently determined to be a member of the Kreutz family of sun grazing comets.

Terry Lovejoy

The Kreutz Sungrazers are a family of sungrazing comets, characterized by orbits taking them extremely close to the Sun at perihelion.

They are believed to be fragments of one large comet that broke up several centuries ago and are named for German astronomer Heinrich Kreutz, who first demonstrated that they were related.

A Kreutz Sungrazers’s aphelion is about 160 AU from the Sun; these sungrazers make…

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  1. oldbrew says:

    More from the NASA report cited in the post:

    ‘Comet Lovejoy wasn’t that bright, but it was still amazing. Only a few days after it left the sun, the comet showed up in the morning skies of the southern hemisphere. Observers in Australia, South America, South Africa, and New Zealand likened it to a search light beaming up from the east before dawn. The tail lined up parallel to the Milky Way and, for a few days, made it seem that we lived in a double-decker galaxy.’ [bold added]

    Interesting 😎

  2. malagabay says:

    A well interesting observation…
    Especially given its orbital inclination to the ecliptic.

    3D Diagram of the orbit of C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy) by Dominic Ford

  3. oldbrew says:

    Post: ‘A Kreutz Sungrazer’s aphelion is about 160 AU from the Sun’

    livescience: ‘The end of the solar system is about 122 astronomical units (AU) away from the sun’

    So what determines the aphelion point of the likes of comet Lovejoy?

  4. tallbloke says:

    So, comets not a jumble of boulders glued together with ice after all then? 🙂

    I wonder if the known trajectory of the comet informs us more concerning this:

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    I wonder if ‘they’ ever considered that there is a lot of iron and nickle and basalt like rock in the solar system and maybe, just maybe, some of the comets are large hunks of stainless steel with a basalt ablative shield over them (kind of like a lot of planet structures, only smaller) and that maybe the icy bit is just some junk collected on the outside… And that maybe just such a structure would give a really nice tail, but not really warm up much inside from a wispy gas or plasma, no matter what the temperature…

    Temperature, meet mass x specific heat…

  6. Brian H says:

    Are comets going to be reclassified as snowy dirtballs?

  7. Brint says:

    After reading the article, it occurs to me that the problem could perhaps be solved if it is coincident that Fe XIV has the emission lines seen in the sun’s corona. If anything else could also be found to produce those emission lines, then the fact that Fe XIV has those lines – and only produces them at excess of 1 million K – would no longer necessarily mean that the corona must be over 1 million K. And if the corona is not over 1 million K, then the comet’s survival is no longer an issue.

    But it seems that once something was found that produced those emission lines, scientists stopped looking for anything else that might also produce such lines, presuming the problem solved.

  8. oldbrew says:

    ‘Rosetta’s target ‘Chury’ and other comets observed by space missions show common evidence of layered structures and bi-lobed shapes. With 3D computer simulations an astrophysicist was able to reconstruct the formation of these features as a result of gentle collisions and mergers.’

    ‘Half of the comet nuclei that spacecraft have observed so far — among them comets 103P/Hartley 2 and 19P/Borelly — have bi-lobed shapes. ‘How and when these features formed is much debated, with distinct implications for solar system formation, dynamics, and geology’ ‘

  9. oldbrew says:

    TB: 52 pictures of comet 67P.

    ‘Huge release of Rosetta images paints a spooky picture of comet’s rugged landscape’