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Dec 23 2011

Space porn

Ok, unless you’re as big a geek as I am, the term “porn” might be a little strong, but take a look at this photo of Comet Lovejoy.

Comet Lovejoy photographed from space

According to the accompanying story, this shot was taken by NASA astronaut Dan Burbank on Dec 21.

Comet Lovejoy, if you haven’t heard, stole its 15 minutes of fame by plunging into the corona of the sun last week—and surviving.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    eNeMeE

    —and surviving.

    …I came.

  2. 2
    Robert B.

    I came.

    To see a cool space picture, and you didn’t disappoint me.

  3. 3
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    No, that’s space porn all right. Hawt space porn.

  4. 4
    davidct

    Shouldn’t somebody praise god or something? I guess not, god does not approve of porn when speaking through a holy man.

    Thanks for a super image.

  5. 5
    Pierce R. Butler

    Waitaminit – Lovejoy, according to the linked articles, zipped by “only 87,000 miles above the sun’s photosphere” and “endured temperatures of over a million degrees Celsius” – yet still “put on a wonderful cometary show” (with “tail” and all)?

    Somebody please tell me how this dirty snowball had any volatiles left to outgas after that close encounter of the solar kind.

    1. 5.1
      Robert B.

      Yeah, it’s like F said. The corona is crazy hot – much hotter than the surface below it. (That’s backwards from the rest of the sun, which gets hotter as you go deeper.) But it’s not very dense at all. I’m sure the comet lost volatiles spectacularly just from radiant heat, but conduction from the corona wouldn’t have added all that much more, despite the ridiculous temperature. Think of how air never feels as hot or as cold as water does at the same temperature, because the air is “thinner” – that is, it’s less dense, more tenuous.

      Besides, many comets are composed entirely of volatiles. (It might even be “all” instead of “many,” I don’t remember.) Comets lose material on every approach to the sun, and they lose more the closer they get. But if it’s water ice all the way down, it’ll keep showing a tail as long as there’s anything left to it at all.

  6. 6
    shouldbeworking

    Gawd did it!

  7. 7
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Somebody please tell me how this dirty snowball had any volatiles left to outgas after that close encounter of the solar kind.

    It’s a honking great chunk of ice and dust?

    Then again, the temperature doesn’t tell you the heat content of the coronal medium, either, which is relatively tenuous. Of course, the comet is also being irradiated like crazy, but probably maintains a decent albedo.

    It may really not have a whole lot of volatiles left, either. I don’t know, I haven’t seen much of anything but pretty pictures.

    1. 7.1
      Pierce R. Butler

      Yabbut … 1000000 degrees Celsius??? Water?!?

      We’re talking about a steam-boiler explosion of Brobdingnagian proportions.

      Even at a mere 100000 degrees Celsius, and provided a Pentagonian budget, could human engineers put together something that might survive that? And still have volatiles reactive to the extracoronal solar wind?

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