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Space

Comet Lulin Is Moving Closer To Earth 97

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the space-sparkles dept.
goran72 writes "The comet is swinging around the Sun and approaching the Earth. The photogenic Lulin has a bright tail and an 'anti-tail.' At its closest approach in February, Comet Lulin is expected to brighten to naked-eye visibility, reaching a magnitude of six."
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Comet Lulin Is Moving Closer To Earth

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  • I'm sorry, it could definitely be that my morning brain isn't functioning properly. But in the following sentence:

    At its closest approach in February, Comet Lulin is expected to brighten to naked-eye visibility, reaching a magnitude of six."

    Six... what?

  • ...are always naked.
    Where's this pesky eyeware shop they're talking about?
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Monday January 12, 2009 @08:56AM (#26416091)
    unless you live in the very darkest regions, utterly devoid of streetlighting.

    I really wish people wouldn't talk up comets. They almost never live up to the hype - partly because the commentators are either hopelessly optimistic or over-enthusiastic. Then when the "average" person sticks their head out at night - hoping to see something spectacular, they are gravely disappointed.

    This kind of thing damages the scientific credibility as a whole and turns people off the idea of beleiving scientists: "remember that comet they told us about - what a bust that was, I guess name of global catastrophe is the same - waste of time".

    • by zwekiel (1445761)
      Yeah, he's right. To see a magnitude 6 object, you would need either binoculars, or to be in an area where there is no artificial light.

      So, us city folk are out of life.
    • unless you live in the very darkest regions, utterly devoid of streetlighting.

      Or you have a shotgun and know where the local transformers are located.....
    • by Webs 101 (798265)
      According to a poster above, Mag 6 is about as visible as Uranus - so if you pull your head out of your ass, you should be able to see it.
    • by MBGMorden (803437)

      Mag 6 is *not* naked eye visible . . . unless you live in the very darkest regions, utterly devoid of streetlighting.

      So basically, it's not, unless it is.

    • by ChoboMog (917656)
      I don't see how one's disappointment with a predicted astronomical event (comet, eclipse, meteor shower etc) would damage the scientific credibility. Maybe if they popped their head outside, saw nothing, and then heard the news the next day that someone had messed up a calculation (or mistakenly used Metric/Imperial units in the wrong place [nasa.gov]) and the event never took place...That would bring credibility into question. At worst, a lackluster show by a comet, or during an eclipse/meteor shower, would lead to
    • by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday January 12, 2009 @10:31AM (#26417345) Journal
      "[Comets] almost never live up to the hype"

      I've been looking at the sky for comets since around the time of the moon landings, Hayley's comet was a big dissapointment even though I was living in the bush at the time and had near perfect skies. However a couple of years ago when a I got break in a week of cloudy sky I saw Comet McNaght at it's peak brightness looking very much like this [nasa.gov] to (an old fart's) naked eye, from a beachside suburb in the glow of a major city! After 40yrs of looking at the sky I finally saw a comet in all it's awsome glory, but by that time comets were no longer the reason I habitually enjoyed "sticking my head out at night".

      This kind of thing damages the scientific credibility as a whole and turns people off the idea of beleiving scientists: "remember that comet they told us about - what a bust that was, I guess name of global catastrophe is the same - waste of time".

      Slightly offtopic but I don't agree, the only reason to belive scientists has got nothing to do with the scientists theselves. How many posts do we see on slashdot following the religious right's "unthinking is a virtue" philosophy when it comes to a political rant against the IPCC, they ranters fail to even read, let alone falsify the assertions contained within it's reports. And to add insult to injury these type of anti-science rants are often modded insightfull by what is supposed to be a bunch of nerds. I agree with Dawkins and Sagan that the "unthinking is a virtue" philosophy is our worst enemy but scientists are the last group of people I would blame for it's popularity.
      • by Alomex (148003)

        A while back we found ourselves in a small island in the middle of nowhere. It was remarkable how much brighter it is compared to the rest of the sky. Since I'm usually never more than 100 km away from a really large metropolis, I'd forgotten what an amazing sight it is.

        • by agrounds (227704) on Monday January 12, 2009 @02:55PM (#26421869)

          Having spent the entirety of my childhood in Houston, I always had an interest in astronomy and had a decently mounted catadioptric refractor that I used quite a bit to see/sketch the moon but the city glow makes the entire night sky bright orange. Stars and planets were pretty much off the menu except right after cold fronts in the winter, when I would sit outside for hours with a chart and try to track down all the stars I could find. It was never very many though, but it was exciting.

          I went on an extended hiking and camping trip to the White Mountains in Colorado when I was 14 and on a whim decided to lug my scope with me strapped to the bottom of my pack. It was heavy and more of a burden than I thought it would be, but the very first evening we set camp at ~9,000 feet. After a trout dinner and some relaxing, the sun went down and slowly but surely the night sky began to appear. It was as close to a religious experience as I have ever had. I didn't sleep that night even though I had hiked for hours the previous day and was still trying to come to terms with "non-sea-level" atmospheric pressure.

          Since then, I have seen the sky from many other vantage points with equally impressive vistas, but I still look back on that trip fondly. It was the first time I felt truly humbled and how insignificant we all are in the universe.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by TapeCutter (624760)
            "It was as close to a religious experience as I have ever had."

            My lady friend is a moderate Christian and was in her late thirties when I met her. Although she had occasionally been under them she had never looked up at a dark sky, she also belived I could not "know" the feeling of religious awe because...well...I am not religions. When I showed her a dark sky and described our physical place in the milky way she was gob-smacked and she knew that I knew. We were also lucky enough to spot about a dozen le
          • by Quirkz (1206400)
            I'm up at about 7000 feet, about 6 miles outside of Durango, CO, which is a pretty small town. Even with a streetlight and a couple of porch lights in our little cul-de-sac, I can still see the milky way on any night that's not cloudy. It's lovely, truly. The only problem for the comet watching is going to be the "low" part -- too many trees on all sides to get a good view of anything not high in the sky.
  • by Shakrai (717556) on Monday January 12, 2009 @08:56AM (#26416093) Journal

    Reference [imdb.com] for those too young to remember it ;)

    I'll make a mental note to stay away from 18 wheelers for the next few weeks :P

    • 18 wheelers = instant death...I would worry about those damn lawnmowers and electric kitchen knives....they would hurt more. Oh yeah...and avoid vending machines too. This of the pain that a rogue bag of corn chips or a pack of Ho-Ho's might cause!

      • by Shakrai (717556)

        Oh yeah...and avoid vending machines too

        Especially this one [m5industries.com] ;)

      • Oh yeah...and avoid vending machines too. This of the pain that a rogue bag of corn chips or a pack of Ho-Ho's might cause!

        Your tone seems too glib seeing that the vending machine mowed down a Little League team with a salvo of soda cans...

        • I figure that once you are dead from a Mt.Dew to the forehead the pain will stop pretty sudden like. Getting pelted with bag after bag of Doritos on the other hand could leave some serious cuts....and even worse, if one of those bags busts open the salty Doritoey goodness will burn like hell! No thanks man...I will take the Mt.Dew to the head any day....get it all over nice and quick!

        • I really wanted to see a bowling ball return in that scene somewhere.
    • Thanks for reminding me of that movie. And that I'll never ever be able to un-watch it.

      Jerk.

    • by NCG_Mike (905098)
      I'd be more worried about the Triffids.
  • From TFA "Astronomers at the Taipei Astronomical Museum said the tail of Lulin would be most visible during the time it moves closest to the Earth."
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Igarden2 (916096)
      Sometimes comets are not 'most visible' when closest to the earth. I believe it depends also on how much the 'tail' has developed (usually a function of proximity to the sun) and it's apparent position relative to day and night in our sky. Comets just don't appear as bright in our day sky as in the night sky. FYI, there have been some spectacular comets clearly visible in the daytime.
  • Oh Hai (Score:4, Funny)

    by bigdaddyhame (623739) on Monday January 12, 2009 @09:12AM (#26416265) Homepage

    I hope this doesn't set off a lulcomets meme or somethin'

    (comet pic)
    OH HAI JUZ PASSIN THRU KTHXBYE

    I'm lulin'

  • by fractalrock (662410) on Monday January 12, 2009 @09:19AM (#26416327)
    I was in the Navy, out at sea (probably Atlantic) when Hale-Bopp was visible. [wikipedia.org]

    A few of the guys I worked with would venture out on deck at night, usually to sip whiskey or stargaze, or talk about how much we hated the Nav. Anyway, I've seen comets before so when a buddy said 'you should really come outside and see the comet' I was thinking 'meh...'

    When I stepped outside, I initially thought the moon was out it was so bright on deck. I look up at the sky and almost fell down (seriously...had to catch myself). The comet was so bright and beautiful it damn near took my breath away. It stretched 3/4 of the way across the visible sky; looking like some kind of cosmic jewel.

    I got to see a lot of interesting things while serving, but the comet was a definite highlight.
    • by laejoh (648921)

      I can hear a song coming up!

      IN THE NAVY

      Where can you find pleasure, search the world for treasure,

      learn science, technology?

      Where can you begin to make your dreams all come true

      on the land or on the sea?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shakrai (717556)

      I'd like to get out to sea someday just to see the sky without light pollution. Your story isn't the first one I've heard that makes me jealous I've never made it. The closest you can come on land is probably the Australian Outback. Every year I've tried to get up to the Adirondacks for the same reason and every time I've made it we've had full cloud cover :(

      In my area it's not as bad -- you can actually drive 15 minutes and escape the worst of the city lights -- but it's still not the same as being out

      • by ZekoMal (1404259)
        Man, I should set up a little camp in my front yard.

        The closest man made light you can see is our neighbor's lights inside their house. Otherwise, on a clear night, you can see every star available to us.

        Hopefully we don't have 6 feet of snow on this day, of course.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I'd like to get out to sea someday just to see the sky without light pollution. Your story isn't the first one I've heard that makes me jealous I've never made it. The closest you can come on land is probably the Australian Outback.

        My first trip to the Outback, we were traveling at night. We pulled the car off the road, turned out the lights and got out to look at the sky.

        The view was so breathtaking, my legs got a wobbly.

        Not only was it massively full of stuff I normally can't see, it was completely alien to my Northern Hemisphere-centric eyes. All of my normal star guideposts were either missing or not where they should've been. Completely disorienting--like being on another planet--but ultimately cool.

        If you can afford it, I highly

        • by afidel (530433)
          Likewise the western desert is amazing, both on the far side of Death Valley from Vegas as well as about halfway between Vegas and the North Rim. The scenery there is great during the day and at night you get some of the best views of the night sky possible due to extremely low moisture and the lack of any human activity.
      • The closest you can come on land is probably the Australian Outback

        I think this image [rotboel.com] reveals other places you could go.

        I imagine parts of Africa in the Sahara, Nunavut (Canada), Northcentral Russia, Western China, all of Antarctica, and a couple of the -stans would also afford you a nice view. And at least one of those locations is politically friendly to practically everyone, so vacationing wouldn't be a problem for that reason!

    • by Mikkeles (698461)

      'I was in the Navy, out at sea (probably Atlantic) ...'

      So, you were a navigator?

      • Heheh...well, actually I was a nuclear operator [wikipedia.org].

        The strange thing is, the nukes (guys stuck deepest in the ship) were the only ones who would go outside at night to look around...
    • by treeves (963993)
      What about those of us who served in submarines, you insensitive clod! Just kidding. I wish I had seen it that way. I saw from up in the Cascades in Oregon and took a decent (not good) long exposure photograph of it.
    • By far, Hale-Bopp has been the absolute highlight of my comet-watching experience.

      There's a thought that's haunted me since I read the Nemesis theory, that a brown dwarf companion to the sun (that would be Nemesis) swings in and out of the Oort Cloud in the course of its' highly elliptical orbit, sending a swarm of comets hurtling into the inner Solar System every time it swings towards us. This goes a long way in explaining the apparent regularity of mass extinctions on Earth.

      Anyway, picture a sky with do

    • by fishbowl (7759)
      I saw Hale-Bopp while driving in a very dark part of the country. For most of my trip, the comet happened to be in my peripheral view, which, once I got used to it, turned out to be a good way to see it. It really was amazing, but nothing to base a doomsday cult [wikipedia.org] on.
  • From the Thundarr the Barbarian cartoon...as a warning...

    The year: 1994. From out of space comes a runaway planet, hurtling between the Earth and the Moon, unleashing cosmic destruction! Man's civilization is cast in ruin! BE PREPARED!
  • Bah! Magnitude 6? We'll never be able to see the spaceship following in its tail then. Man...what am I gonna do with all this punch...
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by gpronger (1142181)
      Spike it. You'll get more showing up than if it was simply if it visible. And if you spike it strong enough, they'll think that saw it. Where you located, I may show up if you follow my advice?

      Greg P
      • I'd avoid at all costs, as the clear reference of GP is to a certain cult [wikipedia.org] that committed mass suicide in the 90s. Unless, of course, you want to die...

        Now that I think about it, this was the first instance I'm aware of of "hear about death and visit the dead person's webpage" that was possible. Does anyone else remember going here [wave.net] after you heard the terrible news? Oh, 1997.

  • I've got the Flavor-Aid and cyanide....You guys just bring your sneakers and death shrouds...

    Also, we're making a DVD by the way, so shave your heads and get that nutty twinkle back in your eye!!! We want to look good for our ride to heaven!!

  • What are the chances that the "Lulin Sky Survey" would discover Comet Lulin? I think they knew it was coming.

  • I need to buy some new Nike's.

  • So the difference... (Score:3, Informative)

    by wren337 (182018) on Monday January 12, 2009 @10:59AM (#26417825) Homepage

    ...between "stargazers are in for a treat" and "terrified population faces end of days" is about 0.41 Astronomical Units. Interesting.

  • Anti-tail? (Score:3, Funny)

    by thewiz (24994) on Monday January 12, 2009 @12:02PM (#26418947)

    The photogenic Lulin has a bright tail and an "anti-tail".

    Are astrophysicists sure this isn't a fin?

    [Insert "Jaws" theme here]

  • by DrLudicrous (607375) on Monday January 12, 2009 @12:21PM (#26419205) Homepage

    The comet will pass 0.41 Astronomical Units from earth and reach its closest distance to Earth on February 24, about 14.5 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

    Given that the average earth-moon distance is 384403 km, 14.5 times this is about 5.57 million km. This translates into about 0.0373 AU, which differs from .41 AU by about a factor of 11. Can anyone explain this discrepancy?

    • You're right. 0.41 AU is roughly 160 times the Earth-Moon distance.

      I guess the journalist misunderstood something. Hmm, they usually do so when it's science-related news.

    • I'd tend the believe the reporter got it wrong, but every where else seems to agree on 0.41 AU number.

  • /. was the anti-tail

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