Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rare Cosmic Visitor, Lulin

We had a special visitor from space on Tuesday night, Feb 24th.

Spotted in 2007 by a student at China's Sun Yat-Sen University, "Lulin" is a green-colored two-tailed comet that made its closest approach to Earth (38million miles) on Tuesday night. Because the student used data provided by the Lulin Observatory in Taiwan, the Chinese are calling it The Comet Of Cooperation.

What else happened Tuesday Night? Oh yeah, President Obama addressed the Congress, Supreme Court Justices, Joint Chiefs of Staff and We the People. It was a pretty impressive speech. ... but I doubt Lulin traveled all that way to hear a speech.

Maybe Lulin swung in from the far outer reaches of our solar system just to have a closer look at us? We might look pretty strange from her perspective. I wonder if she was impressed that our warm little blue planet is getting warmer every year now. I wonder if she noticed the missing chunks of protective ozone and oceanic dead zones. Did she associate the dominant primate species with that odd assortment of space junk orbiting our orb? Could she sense the Singularity rumored to live in Earth's core? Did we seem terribly beautiful or beautifully terrible?

[Nat Geo photo of Comet Lulin as it passed overhead on Tuesday, framed by trees in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park]

Some Comet Facts: Scientists think Lulin is on its first pass by our sun and don't expect it to ever come back our way, which makes it a very rare visitor indeed. New comets still have the ices they were born with. Once a comet has been around the sun a few times (such as Halley's), it has lost much of its original ice. A pristine comet like Lulin is still full of ices that have been largely unchanged since the solar system formed some 4.5 billion years ago.

As she exits our neighborhood of space on her route back towards her cold dark home, Lulin will be much thinner, having dropped about 800-gallons of melted ice per second as she swung by our sun. Sounds like a weight loss program I might be interested in!

ps, click here for info on seeing Lulin yourself over the next few nights. Or here is just one of many pages of Lulin photos people are submitting from all over the world. Here is an easy vid of how to find it; all you need is a clear sky and good pair of binoculars.

13 comments:

Spadoman said...

I wonder if she saw the people walking behind dogs and picking up their scat and then thinking the dogs are in charge and rule this world:-)

I once saw the Hale Bop comet. I was South of Carson City in the desert. Spousal unit and I sat on the hood of the Ford and watched. The whole sky exploded with the debris field of the comet. 180 degrees behind us was an eclipse of he moon that night. A real celestial epic event and we seemed to be in the right spot to see it all, at a completely black place on earth.

Peace.

Annette said...

How neat.. that would have been awesome to see for sure. Either of them...lol

Thanks for sharing and I too could have used the weight loss program.

Mauigirl said...

I should've taken a look to see if I could see it. Oh well. I remember Hale-Bop, that was the one that was up there for quite awhile, wasn't it? I remember leaving work at night and seeing it up above my building every night for quite a few days, as I recall.

So I have to fly around the sun to lose weight? Seems like my only hope.

D.K. Raed said...

Spado:
a dark lonely desert is sky watchers paradise. we saw a blood red lunar eclipse in one of those spots some years ago. the only light for miles around came from our campfire.

I saw Hale-Bopp but I more remember Kahoutek because it was so fuzzy. Also saw Shoemaker-Levy-Shoemaker crash into Jupiter which was amazing. We couldn't see Lulin, except online.

D.K. Raed said...

Annette:
we should start a comet-weight-loss club! if you reach your target weight, you get a comet named after you. if you lose too much weight, you become the comet. (that was a bad joke reference to the stardust we will all revert to someday in our skinniest condition)

MauiGirl:
Hey somedays flying around the sun seems like it'd be easier than dieting. Since I began seriously trying to drop 10-lbs, I've done nothing but GAIN weight. Now I find I'm hungry all the time for junk food, so I suspect this dieting business is a crock. I'm thinking of going back to NOT trying to lose weight, just so my weight stabilizes! Plus I HATE thinking about every little thing I eat. Eating should be fun!

an average patriot said...

Hi Red
Yes we have certainly made a total mess out of this planet. Only an idiot would think we could clean it up now.
I envy you! You have a beautiful sky out there. Almost like you can reach out and touch it. That must have looked beautiful!

D.K. Raed said...

Avg Patriot:
We do have a beautiful sky, but still could not see Lulin, dang! However, the radio, infrared and optical astronomers were all busy observing this one, so there will be some very good images, I'm sure.

BTW, maybe I'm an idiot, but I do think we could still clean up our earthly mess. Unfortunately, it might involve extincting humans.

Spadoman said...

Pardon me as I comment on the comments:

The VLA, Very Large Array, a 20 mile stretch of desert West of Socorro, New Mexico has a display of the most fantastic large scale images of celestial happenings, probably in the world. I am wondering if they have radio images of Lulin? I'll dog into that and find out.

The diet yo yo, so to speak. I have been at it since I had my first heart episode in 1985. The only thing that really works is to change every day habits and eat less and completely balanced meals and exercise regularly. I recommend a book called, "The Tao of Eating." It puts food into perspective in peoples lives. We all put way too much importance on the dining experience when just putting food as energy in your mouth from time to time still keeps you alive. I struggle every day, and as a diabetic, have something to gain by losing a few pounds. My latest attempt has me down 11 pounds and blood sugars normal, (or close to it), for the past 9 weeks. I just want to "love" until I die, not live forever.

peace, and thanks for the forum.

Spadoman said...

I'll pay a dollar to anyone that can find and correct the 2 typos I made. :-) sorry

D.K. Raed said...

Spado, ah-ah-ah, I think those were Freudian typos, you secret DOG-LOVER ... LOL!

Fran said...

WE've had cloudy skies here in the Rainforest (well Duh!!) but the other night saw the moon in the Western sky with a ever so slight illumination as a crescent along the bottom, with a bright star next to it. Wow & on either side it was misty/fog... a break in the sky for me to see this beautiful view.

Ooohh pretty!

Cart said...

And here is another rare cosmic visitor...

D.K. Raed said...

Fran (I thought I responded earlier, but I guess it disappeared into the cosmos):
I was lucky enough to have a couple good comet viewing nights. Lulin's fuzzy greenish glow was clearly visible through binocs. Saturn rising was pretty cool too. But now, my binocs can no longer distinguish it from any other night light.

Cart:
you've been rarer than a chinese comet ... but having spotted you now, I will be on austral patrol.