We discuss and comment on the role agriculture will play in the containment of the CO2 problem and address protocols for terraforming the planet Earth.
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Friday, February 15, 2013
Comet of the Century
comet appears very promising and we are long over due for a
spectacular event. The comment here is that the tail is formed from
complex molecules. That is the accepted explanation. It is my
conjecture that the bulk of the dust is in the form of elemental
carbon which naturally charges up as it passes through the solar
flux. That acquired charge naturally produces a huge halo.
one is in the high end of probability so sit back for a neat ride.
It is too bad we cannot get something up there to intercept it and
the meantime it is time to put it on our watch list.
Impact probe has
captured images of Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON), as it moves past the
orbital distance of Jupiter on what may be its first trip inwards to
the Sun, and possibly a spectacular show.
are notoriously fickle beasts. Chunks of primordial rock, dust, and
volatile ices that formed some 4.5 billion years ago around our
fledgling sun, they can occasionally fly on Icarus-like orbits that
bring them to the inner solar system.
solar irradiation warms their surfaces and sublimates components like
solid water and carbon dioxide – creating great tails of reflecting
gas and glowing ions, along with streams of dusty carbon compounds
of these bodies are on long elliptical orbits that bring them back
again and again to the inner solar sanctum. Halley’s comet for
example has an approximately 75 year long orbit, and its glowing
passage has been recorded by humans some 29 times and probably seen
fall inwards from a still mysterious region beyond all known major
and minor planets – the Oort cloud. This detritus from our solar
system’s youth exists somewhere between about 2,000 and 50,000
times further from the Sun than the Earth is, perhaps even stretching
to a light year from us.
these long-period comets (each of which may or may not ever visit us
again) that have the greatest potential to light up the brightest as
they fall inwards, since they may be essentially pristine, their
volatiles ripe for a spot of solar heating.
C/2012 s1, or ISON (International Scientific Optical
September 2012 by Russian astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom
Novichonok. It’s an extremely promising candidate for becoming a
truly spectacular object both before and after its closest solar
approach of 800,000 miles on November 28th 2013.
course we’ve all heard this before. Over the years many newly
spotted cometary bodies have been touted as ‘the next great comet,’
only to sputter and fizzle to something less than impressive. The
problem is that the precise composition and physical structure of any
cometary chunk is hard to predict, as is its reaction to increasing
temperatures. No two cometary bodies are the same.
we keep hoping, because a bright comet is something amazing, and over
centuries and millennia there have been some truly great ones. Last
century, in 1910, the “Great January Comet of 1910″ (C/1910 A1)
was visible during the day and lasted a couple of months. The Great
Comet of 1882 became bright enough in September of that year (around
its closest approach to the Sun) to be visible in the sky adjacent to
the Sun. And there have been many more witnessed across human
ISON is looking promising. On January 17th NASA’s Deep Impact
spacecraft (the surviving mother craft of the Deep Impact mission to
collide a copper impact probe with comet 9P/Tempel – which it did
successfully in 2005) was able to snap a series of images of ISON
from a distance of about 493 million miles, as the cometary body
approaches about 4.8 Earth orbital radii (astronomical units) from
is a time lapse movie of these pictures, if you look carefully you’ll
see that already there are signs of a glowing tail some 40,000 miles
long. It’s possible that ISON will not disappoint.
comets present a smorgasbord of scientific data. Their tails of
particles and dust providing insights to the streaming solar wind and
interplanetary magnetic fields, and their contents providing insight
to the rich chemistry of our proto-planetary system more than 4
billion years ago.
cloud objects are also intriguing because they may represent material
stolen from our stellar siblings. A long-standing problem has been
that the number of long-period comets seems rather high compared to
our expectations for the population density of an Oort cloud formed
from icy material flung outwards during planet formation.
fact the numbers are amazingly discrepant. While most models of solar
system formation suggest there could be some 6 billion icy chunks in
the Oort cloud, the comet counts indicate a population of about 400
billion. Quite a conundrum.
Levison and colleagues used
computer simulations to demonstrate that this apparent over-richness
of cometary bodies could be explained if our Sun had emerged from its
stellar birth cluster with more than its fair share of these outer
pieces. In other words, dynamical pulling and shoving with its sister
suns resulted in the acquisition of a vast number of alien cometary
not only might ISON be a bright and beautiful creature as it
approaches the Sun, it could be truly a visitor from the stars.
the Author: Caleb
Scharf is the director of Columbia University's multidisciplinary
Astrobiology Center. He has worked in the fields of observational
cosmology, X-ray astronomy, and more recently exoplanetary science.
His latest book is 'Gravity's Engines: How Bubble-Blowing Black Holes
Rule Galaxies, Stars, and Life in the Cosmos', and he is working on
'The Copernicus Complex' (both from Scientific American / Farrar,
Straus and Giroux.) Follow on Twitter @caleb_scharf.