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Space Science

Solar Hurricane Rips Off Comet's Tail 105

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the cited-for-comet-abuse dept.
coondoggie writes to mention that NASA recently captured images of a solar hurricane ripping the tail off Encke's comet. "In a release, NASA said preliminary analysis suggests that the tail was ripped away when magnetic fields bumped together in an explosive process called "magnetic reconnection." Oppositely directed magnetic fields around the comet "bumped into each" by the magnetic fields in the hurricane. Suddenly, these fields linked together--they "reconnected"--releasing a burst of energy that tore off the comet's tail. A similar process takes place in Earth's magnetosphere during geomagnetic storms fueling, among other things, the Northern Lights, NASA said."
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Solar Hurricane Rips Off Comet's Tail

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  • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) * on Monday October 01, 2007 @06:23PM (#20816897) Journal
    Don't you get a rather large electrical field when a magnetic field like that collapses? Should be an amazing radio source.
    • by The_Wilschon (782534) on Monday October 01, 2007 @09:54PM (#20818637) Homepage
      Precisely. Magnetic reconnection releases a tremendous amount of energy, most of it in the form of EM radiation. It is the phenomenon responsible for, IIRC, many (most?) solar weather events, perhaps most notably solar flares.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      The source of the solar wind anomaly -- the recent "bare" magnetic storm -- is a much higher source of RF and other energy than any distant magnetic effects. It might have made a blip but would probably be drowned out by the main phenomenon.
    • For some strange, unknown reason I first parsed your post as:

      Don't you get a rather large electrical bill when a magnetic field like that collapses? Should be an amazing revenue source.

      Honestly, I have no idea why.

      --
      --- Next .sig Please --->
  • Tsk tsk tsk (Score:5, Funny)

    by Bluesman (104513) on Monday October 01, 2007 @06:25PM (#20816919) Homepage
    That's very immature of the Sun. Fortunately, we know that the comet's tail will grow back, and it will be none the worse for wear.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01, 2007 @07:06PM (#20817315)
      In further news: The solar hurricane was named Lorena.
    • by Skevin (16048)
      No no no. It *ripped off* the tail, which means:

      1. The Sun sold the Comet's Tail a Plasma TV, but when it got home, it discovered there was only a cement block in the box.
      2. The Sun cheats at poker.
      3. The Sun also hustles pool.

      Pick one.

      Solomon
    • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Monday October 01, 2007 @08:45PM (#20818091)
      Fortunately, we know that the comet's tail will grow back

      Well, hey, hold on there... we first need to decide whether this comet tail should be rebuilt at all. If another solar hurricane is just going to come and wash the tail away, then it's a waste of valuable ice and dust to rebuild it and we should disincentivize comet tails from forming by saying, hey, comet tails, we're not bailing you out anymore! Stop mooching off the rest of the solar system and take some responsibility for yourselves!

      Curiously, by accident or design it seems that most of the damage and disruption was confined to the ion tail, instead of the wealthier dust tail area... that's typical electromagnetic justice for you.
  • by IMarvinTPA (104941) <IMarvinTPA@NoSPAM.IMarvinTPA.com> on Monday October 01, 2007 @06:27PM (#20816947) Homepage Journal
    What is this Magnetic Reconnection thing you speak of?
    http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2006/arch06/060711magnetic.htm [thunderbolts.info]

    IMarv
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by pln2bz (449850) *
      For people wanting a more technical discussion of why magnetic reconnection is likely a farse, check this out ...

      http://www.electric-cosmos.org/Rejoinder.htm [electric-cosmos.org]
      • by kmac06 (608921) on Monday October 01, 2007 @08:21PM (#20817907)
        Uh...between well-agreed upon scientific data and interpretation vs one guy's ranting website (who's not a physicist), I'm gonna go with the peer-reviewed literature. This claims to single-handedly see a gaping hole in solar neutrino oscillation experiments, that no physicist sees. That is just screaming CRACKPOT!

        As far as the magnetic reconnection issue...well there's no reason to trust (or even read) anything a crackpot like this says.
        • by pln2bz (449850) * on Monday October 01, 2007 @08:55PM (#20818161)
          Science is not a democracy, by the way. We do not vote on ideas based upon who is saying them, contrary to the increasing belief that this is how it works. Instead, we should attempt to understand the arguments that are being made and discuss the logic behind both sides in the argument.

          There have been plenty of intelligent people who believed that space plasmas are electrical. You just have not read about them. Hannes Alfven, Ralph Juergens, Kristian Birkeland, Anthony Peratt, to name a few. Hannes Alfven received the Noble Physics Prize for his creation of magnetohydrodynamics, which is the mathematics used to model space plasmas. You may be surprised to learn that in his acceptance speech, he disagreed with the idea of modeling space plasmas with frozen-in-place magnetic fields -- a technique which he originated and that persists to this day. He was completely ignored.

          If you have not read the story of Halton Arp, then you are limiting your exposure to observations to those which you agree with. In truth, there is no good reason for why Arp's observations are not correct. Arp has been obstructed from sharing his findings at every step of the way, oftentimes by the very people whose research is threatened by his observations.

          There is a person on wikipedia called ScienceApologist, who has been censoring EU Theory from wikipedia on the basis that there are no published papers which support EU Theory. Well, Anthony Peratt, Wallace Thornhill and a handful of other EU theorists did in fact get published in September in an IEEE publication. ScienceApologist decided to actually send a letter to the IEEE editor, objecting that the papers were pseudo-scientific (and yet in the absence of any evidence supporting his statements). Apparently, his requirement that EU Theorists be published is in fact not sufficient at all. There appears to be no burden that can be met by the EU Theorists that would satisfy him, and the ethical problems associated with his being both a wikipedia referee and a player involved in influencing the publication of the theory appears to escape him.

          Not being popular is not an excuse to avoid reading about something, especially when there are such over-zealous censors who believe it is their duty to prevent the public from understanding the debate about electricity in space. If a theory appears to be logically coherent and supported by observational evidence, then it stands a chance of being true regardless of how many adherents it possesses (nature does not care what people prefer to believe), and it deserves investigation and even attempts to quantify it. Evaluating theories purely on the basis of who looks or sounds the smartest is a downward spiral. I recommend that you think twice before suggesting that others follow your lead. You very well could be redirecting people away from fruitful lines of research and investigation. Despite your good intentions, you may in fact be causing harm. You can't possibly know until you *read* what the theory says and talk to people about it, right?
          • by kmac06 (608921) on Monday October 01, 2007 @09:21PM (#20818373)
            I have no opinion on the magnetics going on here. I was pointing our the crackpottery of the first paragraph of your link, and saying that the rest of what he has to say should be ignored based on that (that doesn't mean everything he says is false--if he says 1+1=2 that's still true).
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by pln2bz (449850) *

              I was pointing our the crackpottery of the first paragraph of your link, and saying that the rest of what he has to say should be ignored based on that

              But magnetic reconnection is *extremely* important as it attempts to explain why the Sun's atmosphere is 100x hotter than its surface. We see a similar inverse temperature situation with the Earth's atmosphere, but it is generally agreed that this is a result of an external energy source. If Don Scott is right about magnetic reconnection, then the most popu

              • by kmac06 (608921) on Monday October 01, 2007 @09:48PM (#20818599)
                You're not getting (or intentionally ignoring) my point about the solar neutrino oscillations. This guy clearly either doesn't know what he's talking about, or for some reason isn't trying to convince any actual physicists. Either way, it means he shouldn't be taken seriously, regardless of what he's saying.
                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by pln2bz (449850) *
                  My understanding actually is that number of neutrinos emitted by the Sun are inversely correlated with sunspot frequency. If that is true, then that would tend to pose a serious problem for the standard solar model as that would suggest a correlation between neutrino generation and activity on the Sun's surface, which are supposed to be separated by a significant duration of time. Is this not true?
                • by Kyace (979188)
                  Isaac Newton, after he wrote his famous laws, basically spent years trying to get alchemy to work. I'm sure many of his peers, 'actual physicists', thought he was a crackpot for trying. Please view the merits of an idea based on the proof behind it and against it, not solely on if you like the person or agree with everything else they are saying. I enjoy a quote about Newton's years spent in alchemy from a book by Ian Stewart, Jack Cohen and Terry Pratchett, paraphrasing saying that 'had there been any way
                  • by kmac06 (608921)
                    And the guy on the street corner saying the end is near might be right. Sometime a crackpot is just a crackpot.
                    • by Kyace (979188)
                      You are welcome to your opinion of him as a crackpot, you are also welcome to dismiss out of hand any theory he puts forth based on your opinion of him. The only problem I have is when you tell other people that his ideas are to be dismissed without inspection because you think he is a crackpot. Other than the fact that this theory explaining the losing of the comet's tail also includes the sun, I didn't see anything linking it to his other work. If the theory is wrong, let someone find some proof to explai
                    • by pln2bz (449850) *

                      Sometime a crackpot is just a crackpot.

                      The problem is that many of the people who believe that space plasmas are electrical have very impressive credentials. Don Scott is merely one of many. Hannes Alfven was convinced enough of it that he postulated a mechanism for how charge separation could occur in space -- his critical ionization velocity -- which was subsequently validated within the laboratory.

                      When you erroneously call somebody a crackpot as a result of limiting your reading selection so much that

                  • I'm sure many of his peers, 'actual physicists', thought he was a crackpot for trying.

                    I doubt it. Alchemy wasn't entirely discredited at the time Newton tried it. It's more likely that he was thought a crackpot for claiming that an apple pulls the Earth upwards as it falls (when everyone knows things fall down because that's what 'down' means) than for his dabbling.

                    Actually, this being Newton, it's more likely people thought he was a crackpot for giving a lecture to an empty room after frightening his students so much that none of them showed up to his lecture.

                    Context is important.

                  • by DrWho520 (655973)
                    I'm sure many of his peers, 'actual physicists', thought he was a crackpot for trying.
                    Probably not as many as you think. Elementalism and alchemy were still widely accepted in his day.
              • by ZwJGR (1014973)
                Magnetic reconnection does not exist and does not explain why the corona is hotter than than the sun's lower level (photosphere? I forget).
                The explanation is indeed due to the electromagnetic nature of plasma, and the large potential differences and EM fields around the sun. However this is no need to gratuitously break several laws of physics by implying that field lines actually exist (they don't, they only represent the direction of a continuous unbreakable field), and that these so called lines can brea
          • by Guppy06 (410832)
            "Science is not a democracy, by the way."

            Agreed.

            "Instead, we should attempt to understand the arguments that are being made and discuss the logic behind both sides in the argument."

            Science is not a democracy; all ideas and proposals need not and should not be given equal weight, and it is proper for ideas that are outlandish on their face to be casually dismissed without bothering to engage in such a dialog; the nature of the claims make it apparent that a truly rational discourse with its adherent is not
            • by pln2bz (449850) *
              Your response is quite clever in that it strictly focuses on the successes of technology as a means of proving that space interpretations are correct. It's a very common fallicy, but it completely ignores the fact that we don't interpret our way to semiconductor chips. When a chip does not work, we learn from our mistakes. When an astrophysicist makes a bad interpretation based upon some incorrect mathematical modeling he learned within magnetohydrodynamics about the nature of plasmas, there are not nece
          • Immanuel!

            Immanuel Velikovsky! Is that you? Heyyyy!

            Watcha doin' on /., you old rascal? When we gonna switch poles, huh?
            You promised! Next ten years? OK,then!


            • by pln2bz (449850) *
              And I suppose you are a big fan of Carl Sagan? Have you read "Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky" by Ginenthal? Not that I'm a big fan of the big V, but at least I realize that he was given a truly *raw* and unfair treatment by Sagan.
          • by iendedi (687301)

            Science is not a democracy, by the way. We do not vote on ideas based upon who is saying them, contrary to the increasing belief that this is how it works. Instead, we should attempt to understand the arguments that are being made and discuss the logic behind both sides in the argument.

            The unfortunate reality is that science can be very threatening to established business interests. Most naive young scientists and engineers have an idealistic model in their minds of how science operates, completely ignoring politics, power, business and capitalism. But the world can be a very hostile place for brilliance, when that brilliance touches on any of the following subjects:

            1. Energy production or consumption, especially when ideas threaten profit streams of oil or power generation utilities
            2. Ph
            • by pln2bz (449850) *
              I've certainly heard this view before, and I have to admit that I cannot discount it. There are increasingly ways around these bottlenecks though. We don't actually need wikipedia, and we only modestly need peer review publications. It's always been my impression that the requirement for peer review publication is an excuse that will be subsituted with another as quickly as the requirement is met. The real battle IMO is for peoples' belief systems.

              We are making slow, albeit steady, progress. Laypeople
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CorSci81 (1007499)

      Well, it goes like this [wikipedia.org].

      That you just posted is a piece of pseudo-scientific dreck from all I can tell. I had a course on MHD in grad school, the theory of magnetic reconnection most certainly can account for the speed of energy release in solar events. It's also an important problem in plasma instability in tokamaks. Searching on google scholar didn't find any peer-reviewed papers by plasma physicists refuting magnetic reconnection.

      Perhaps they were confused by Biskamp's 1986 paper [aip.org] on the Sweet-Parker

  • by noidentity (188756) on Monday October 01, 2007 @06:30PM (#20816973)
    The tail of a comet isn't connected to the comet anyway; it's material that's already fallen off the comet. A better headline would be "solar hurricane redirects comet's tail". But in this age of violent analogies, "rips off" gets preference.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Cesium12 (1065628)
      But the tail was associated with the rest of the comet gravitationally and by virtue of moving in the same direction. You're right, 'redirects' might be a better word, but 'rips off' isn't a bad choice, except in that it implies comets are solid masses.
  • by Anonymous Coward
  • Lets observe if the comet re-grows it's tail. If it does, this could lead us to the true origin of reptiles!
  • ...now Enck won't be able to reach SSJ4!!
  • is if it also tore the comet a new asshole!

    S-
    • is if it also tore the comet a new asshole!

      Well with the "coronal mass ejection", you betcha it did!

  • Solar Hurricane??? (Score:5, Informative)

    by flajann (658201) <flajann@linu[ ]oke.com ['xbl' in gap]> on Monday October 01, 2007 @07:08PM (#20817339) Homepage Journal
    What is a "Solar Hurricane"? This is a astronomical term to which I am unfamiliar.
    I wonder if they are talking about coronal mass ejections? If so, I don't get the analogy. Hurricanes are basically large vortices's. Coronal Mass Ejections are not.
    • i think its a reference to the massive winds from a hurricane. from any single point, the size of the hurricane makes it appear that the wind is coming in from pretty much one direction, even if it is rotating. it's a crappy analogy, but it works after a fashion. and yes, they are talking about CMEs. it's in the first article.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by meowsqueak (599208)
      Silly terms from fluid mechanics. There's no such thing as a solar 'wind'. It's the movement of charged particles in an electric field - an electric current.

      Or maybe they are just using the term 'hurricane' as an emotional allusion to a violent storm.

    • It's true it's juvenile, but on the other hand, if it makes even one person curious enough to research and find out if that is actually what it is or not, can it be all bad?

      I always tell kids certain books are forbidden to them, for example, which almost gaurantees they'll go and read it at the first opportunity.

    • by Dausha (546002)
      A Solar Hurricane is a result of gradual warming of the Earth caused by SUVs and PEOPLE that impacts weather patterns on the Sun. There used to be fewer Solar hurricanes until after the U.S. started to cut its emissions in the 1970s, when emissions increased.
    • I first heard the analogy at a NOAA presentation on 'Space Weather'. The speaker (can't remember his name) compared CMEs to hurricanes, and flares to tornados. So, it might work in the context that both CMEs and flares are solar events but are different types of events, just as hurricanes and tornados are wind events but are not the same thing. Now, flares tend to be more highly localized but more energy dense (just as tornados are vs. hurricanes). I don't think the analogy works without that context, h
  • What's actually really interesting is the *other* comet-related article that came out today regarding findings related to the Ulysses probe traveling through the tail of Comet McNaught. Particularly (from http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/071001_comet_surprises.html [space.com]) ...

    The study, detailed in the Oct. 1 issue of Astrophysical Journal, also found the comet tail acted as a source of electrons for the solar wind.

    The solar wind consists of charged atoms that are missing most of their electrons, but Ulysses

    • by Guppy06 (410832) on Monday October 01, 2007 @08:55PM (#20818169)
      "this appears to confirm the Electric Universe hypothesis that comets are not sublimating dirty snowballs, but rather electrical phenomenon."

      Why mod you down when I can point you here? [wikipedia.org]

      "Keep in mind that there is a difference between saying that a theory is not properly quantified and a theory *cannot* be quantified."

      A theory can be unquantifiable due to its subject matter (intelligent design) or, as is the case with the "electric universe theory," due to its authors' refusal to let it be quantified when it would be to their egos' detriment. Only observations that have a (usually fleetingly small) connection to this pet theory are allowed in, permitting people such as yourself to churn out several paragraphs of "We're right!" all while cheerfully ignoring something as trivial as we've fucking been there! In that respect, you have more in common with the Flat Earth types than the ID folks you allude to, whose statements are truly unassailable (placing it outside the realm of science) rather than willfully ignorant.

      At least you're "interesting" rather than "informative." Thank His Noodliness for such small blessings.
      • by pln2bz (449850) *
        Quantifying EU Theory is not as simple as you seem to imply in the absence of agreement on several important questions that remain. For instance, there is still no aether theory that everybody can agree on. It has nothing to do with ego, and your comments border on slanderous. There is legitimate disagreement amongst the theorists on how to replace quantum mechanics, to what degree to believe the various pieces of evidence that supports Relativity (gravitational lensing, for instance, appears to be quite
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Guppy06 (410832)
          "For instance, there is still no aether theory that everybody can agree on."

          Only because you insist on including yourselves in "everybody." Any hand-waving explanations for the lack of an aether wind belong in the same category as epicycles.

          "There is legitimate disagreement amongst the theorists on how to replace quantum mechanics"

          Replace quantum mechanics? Why? Have all of our semiconductors suddenly stopped working?

          "gravitational lensing, for instance, appears to be quite bunk,"

          Um... [wikipedia.org]

          "as does the 1919 e
          • by pln2bz (449850) *
            First of all, it has never conclusively been determined that there exists no aether. There is no shortage of papers on the Internet that reason through the experiments that have been conducted to date, and many conclude that an aether was never rigorously excluded. You may not be aware that David Thomson, originator of the Aether Physics Model, claims to have generated an aether model that accurately predicts the electron binding energies of *every* single element within the periodic table. But more than
            • by LordVorp (988488)
              You'd probably like "Physics Without Einstein" by Dr. Harold Aspden (http://www.aspden.org/ [aspden.org] & http://www.energyscience.co.uk/ [energyscience.co.uk]). From the sound of it, you've come in your research to see the holes that Relativity leaves in explaining the universe, and Aspden's theory shows how the formulas of General and Special Relativity can be derived from 19th century aether-based physics.
      • by ZwJGR (1014973)
        "this appears to confirm the Electric Universe hypothesis that comets are not sublimating dirty snowballs, but rather electrical phenomenon."

        Why mod you down when I can point you here? [wikipedia.org]

        The article neither proves nor disproves either theory.
        What isn't mentioned in that wikipedia article is the arc between the probe and the comet just before impact.
        If you think about it, the comet is passing through a charged region of space (solar wind), hence it will be equalise potential to the surrounding p
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Guppy06 (410832)
          "The article neither proves nor disproves either theory."

          Only if you ignore the reported figures for what was ejected from the impact: 250,000 metric tons of water.

          "What isn't mentioned in that wikipedia article is the arc between the probe and the comet just before impact.
          If you think about it, the comet is passing through a charged region of space (solar wind), hence it will be equalise potential to the surrounding plasma. Hence as a probe with a different potential approaches (similar to that of the Ear
  • OMG (Score:1, Redundant)

    Did it hurt?
  • by Assassin bug (835070) on Monday October 01, 2007 @08:25PM (#20817947) Journal
    ... an animated GIF [spaceweather.com] that is kind of nifty. I bet if that CME hit earth containing a comet tail the light show would be impressive!
    • From TFA: NASAs video [nasa.gov]. WTF? Shouldn't NASA be showing your video?
      • Calm down there skippy. I provided a link because NASA's "video" is an animation, which was already provided as a link in the post. The link that I provided was actual video capture from the actual encounter and not an artist's rendition! It was probably submitted to SpaceWeather by someone working at the STEREO [nasa.gov] project, but I don't really know.
    • Space sperm ftw!
  • by Aqua04 (859925) *
    Aaaawwww. Poor comet ! Fortunately they are like lizards. It takes them a while to recover, but the tail grows back in time.

    Seriously, though, I have a question. I have not read TFA, but I'll get around to it, so if I need to do that to answer this question then don't bother to answer this lazy bum. Why would a solar hurricane rip off the plasma t(r)ail ? Wouldn't the tail just increase, ie. wouldn't more material from the comet just go into it with increased winds ?

    And put it in lizard terms if you can. (j
  • by greyhueofdoubt (1159527) on Monday October 01, 2007 @10:34PM (#20818879) Homepage Journal
    Just in time for Slashdot's birthday party: Rip the tail off the comet!
  • Periodic comets (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rcw-home (122017) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @12:42AM (#20819629)

    From the article:

    The comet is only the second repeating, or periodic, comet ever identified
    If not wrong, then this is certainly misleading. Encke's Comet was the second periodic comet identified, but sheesh - would you say "Sputnik 2 was only the second satellite ever launched"? There are hundreds of known periodic comets [wikipedia.org].
  • do I have to put up the storm shutters? I don't think my steel shutters are going to stop a solar storm :O
    • do I have to put up the storm shutters?
      No, but (y)our solar windstorm insurance premiums just doubled overnight.

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