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Posted on Sep 15, 2015 in Blog, Science | 1 comment

3000 comets in 17 years. Is it much?

3000 comets in 17 years. Is it much?

A new video from NASA shows us the wonders of the Universe. Also how smart the mankind got while creating advanced technology allowing us to see more and farther. It’s about.. comets. And their movement around the Sun. And their life cycle. And about comets that manage to escape the Sun’s gravity while other get vaporized by the intense solar radiation. It’s about computing tons of data to show us a reality we wouldn’t understand in other conditions. It’s about realizing the complex movements of the components of the Solar System. Well, a small part of them, a few planets, those closest to the Sun and the comets, the subject of the computation.

It’s an amazing animation of the planets orbiting the Sun while tens, hundreds, thousands of smaller objects also fly around us, often at speeds beyond our imagination. Just compare the speed of the planets with the speed of the comets during the movie. Huge difference. And our Earth is running through space 18.5 miles per second (30 km per second)!

All the colorful points and lines are real comets. Observed by SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) since its launch nearly 20 years ago. Each one computed by NASA engineers in this amazing animation. The joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency aimed to study and understand the sun and the region of space surrounding it and the solar explosions the media is talking about from time to time. What SOHO discovered was a big hit for the scientists. They soon realized the high-tech equipment is also able to see, by luck or by chance, comets approaching the sun. And they started counting. And kept counting. These days the count went over 3000. 3000 comets in our vicinity, orbiting the sun or crushing into it in 17 years of operations. Huge number, isn’t it? Well, no one put our Earth in danger but anyway, the number is amazing.

I invite you to see the movie, the house-sized chunks of rock and ice flying through the space, getting closer to the sun but not in a straight line but following a curve, due to sun’s gravity that makes the comets approach and eventually leave it in high speed, increasing their speed while getting closer, reducing it while moving away. I leave you to discover the red Kreutz comets, the sungrazers, the fastest objects in our solar system that aren’t particles. Unfortunately all getting completely fried when they meet the sun. And how the other manage to survive the encounter with our star.

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