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Space Earth

Comet Nearly Hit Earth? Not So Fast 84

Phil Plait ("The Bad Astronomer") writes with a skeptical take on the recent report that a comet may have narrowly missed earth. According to the linked post from Plait, "When a comet breaks up, it spreads out. Even when intact, the material surrounding a comet can be tens or even hundreds of thousands of kilometers across! Claiming that a comet broke apart, yet managed to constrain its pieces to volume of space less than a few thousand kilometers across strains credulity. Mind you, Bonilla claimed to have seen these objects over the course of two days. That means they would’ve been stretched out along a path that was a million km long at least, yet so narrow that only one observatory on Earth saw them transit the Sun. That is highly unlikely. Worse, the very fact that no one else saw anything makes this claim even less tenable."
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Comet Nearly Hit Earth? Not So Fast

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  • by IAR80 ( 598046 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2011 @09:09AM (#37748882) Homepage
    The number of meteorites impacting the earth daily is in the hundreds if not thousands. Most of them are so small that they bun up in the upper atmosphere. On average 2 every day are big enough to make it through the atmosphere and reach earth. If the comet was fragmented into tiny pieces it would not matter.
  • by delt0r ( 999393 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2011 @10:21AM (#37749556)
    I assumed people would get the Joke. Apparently not. The blog is well respected in Astronomy circles and he publishes peer review papers in the field. He is in fact a good Astronomer.

    I assume parent knows this... hence the quip about fresh wine.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 18, 2011 @10:27AM (#37749648)

    The humor part is that in Dutch: "kometen" (comets) sounds the same as "kom eten" (come eat).

    A loose translation of the wrong interpretation would be: Astronomy is about coming in to eat, gastronomy is about going out to eat.

  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2011 @11:04AM (#37750080) Homepage

    Shoemakerâ"Levy 9 didn't look scattered all over the place, pretty much looked like a straight line.

    The pieces large enough to be visible from Earth, and where "pretty much" is relative to the size of Jupiter.

    If the major remnants of a broken comet had passed that close to earth, then the millions of tiny remnants would have created a meteor shower on earth that would put the Leonids to shame.

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.