6 Crazy Moments Involving Comets

6 Crazy Moments Involving Comets

6 Crazy Moment Involving Comets
Image Credits: Business Insider

Comets are much more than some dirty snowballs. After all, a mere snowball can’t leave a 150-kilometer-wide dent in our planet. In addition to planets, comets also crash into meteoroids and each other.

Several comets predate our solar system, and it is believed that life on Earth might not have existed without them. The following is a list of 6 crazy events involving comets that will definitely catch your interest.

Pre-Solar System Comet

Pre-Solar System Comet

Meteorites are leftover scraps from the formation of the planets. They offer clues regarding the nature of the solar system at various stages of its development. A meteorite found in Antarctica informed us about the conditions before the solar system existed at all.

The meteoroid itself was not that old, but it contained traces of a comet that was. The comet crashed into the meteoroid at some time and left tiny bits of itself imbedded within the leftover scrap. The rock was able to preserve these traces over all this time, even as it streaked through Earth’s atmosphere. This allowed us to study what matter swirled around the Sun, long before the planets were formed.

Missing Lander inside a Comet

Missing Lander inside a Comet

Back in 2014, scientists attempted to land a spacecraft on a comet called 67P. The mission was an utter disaster. The lander, Philae, piggybacked on the Rosetta space probe until it could make the jump to 67P by itself. 7 hours later, it succeeded in flip-flopping into the shadow of a cliff where its solar panels couldn’t recharge it.

Six months later, the comet approached the Sun. On this occasion, Philae managed to get a single message back to Earth, before falling silent again. One and a half years after this event, Rosetta found its companion stuck in a crevice. Its protruding legs lent it the appearance of a dead cockroach.

The Sudbury Basin

The Sudbury Basin - Comets

The Sudbury Basin in Ontario, Canada, is the second-largest impact crater on Earth. It is oval-shaped and measures 60 by 30 kilometers. For the longest time, we weren’t sure what it was that had hit the Earth here. Fortunately, researchers did eventually succeed in finding that it was a comet.

The case was cracked when the chemistry of the rock within the crater was studied. Collisions from both asteroids and comets leave abnormal amounts of iron-loving elements on the Earth’s surface. However, asteroids deposit a higher concentration of them than is present in this Basin. This allowed us to conclude that the Sudbury Basin was created by a comet.

The comet had initially produced a crater that was a stunning 150 kilometers across. It was reduced to its current size due to erosion.

Alcohol-Spewing Comet

Alcohol-Spewing Comet - Comets

When Lovejoy was discovered in 2014, it looked like any other comet. Just a chunk of ice whizzing through space, leaving a trail of shiny bits of itself behind. The booze-spewing began when it drew nearer to the Sun (a year later).

Upon analysis, the liquid spewing from this rock was found to be ‘Ethyl Alcohol’. It’ the same chemical that we’ve got in our alcoholic beverages. At one point, the comet was releasing the equivalent of 500 bottles of wine in a second. It also released various other organic compounds that lend credence to the theory that life was seeded on Earth by comets.

Comet Massacre

Comet Massacre - Comets

The solar wind blows away cosmic dust. Therefore, a star with a massive dust ring around it is something that shouldn’t exist. Fomalhaut is the star that defies all scientific theories because it has a dust ring. For the ring to exist, dust must be produced around the star at a much faster rate than the star can push it away. In 2012, it was found that the source of all that dust is crashing comets.

Judging by the thickness of the swirl, there are about 83 trillion of them, each about a kilometer wide. Astronomers believe that nearly 2000 of them crash into each other every day. Upon being announced, the discovery was aptly dubbed the “comet massacre”.

A Tailless Comet

A Tailless Comet - Comets

In 2014, an object flew into our solar system on a trajectory associated with comets. However, it failed to produce a tail upon approaching the Sun. Investigations revealed that C/2014 S3 had about a million times less water than a typical comet. It was actually mostly composed of rock, like an asteroid.

Baffled scientists couldn’t agree on what the object was. It reflected light like an asteroid does. But there was no evidence of it being baked by the Sun, like a typical asteroid. Some hypothesized that it was an asteroid that had somehow adopted the orbit of a comet. Others thought it was a comet that had lost all its water or some weird comet-asteroid hybrid.

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