back to article 3-million-km-long comet plunges into Sun

Boffins in California report that they have managed to track the course of an unusually resilient comet as it crashed deep into the Sun before finally being crisped. "We believe this is the first time a comet has been tracked in 3-D space this low down in the solar corona," says Claire Raftery, a post-doctoral researcher …


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  1. James 47

    Worst video ever

    Cool subject, poor video

  2. Mr Pedantio

    Should I be worried?

    How many of these would need to fall into the sun before it went nova?

    1. Joe Hoey

      several SUNS worth of mass would have to hit the sun before that would happen

      several SUNS worth of mass would have to hit the sun before that would happen

    2. Anonymous Coward

      RE: Should I be worried?

      "How many of these would need to fall into the sun before it went nova?"

      I don't know about going nova but the sun has been in a bad mood for days and if it even saw another comet, it would probably have some kind of hissy fit and throw its shoes at passers-by.

  3. Sweeping Brush
    Paris Hilton


    Because she knows all about 'deep penetration'

  4. Gobhicks


    This incident clearly contemporaneous with Disaster Area's recent gig on Titan.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Interesting parrallel

    Comet's chance of survival in sun about equal to a snowball's chance in hell.

    Another thought occurs...

    - Sun = very, very hot

    - Comet = mostly water

    - Water = "low" boiling point

    ...just how did it survive so long?

    1. Ragarath

      Answered your own question

      Quote "- Comet = mostly water"

      Mostly (may not even be mostly did not bother to find out the composition of it) therefore not all and some of the 'bits' may have been able to make it further.

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Shields are up

      The sun may be hot, but the only way that the comet 'sees' that is by absorbing radiation from the sun (no conduction / convection in space!). I would think that apart from the comets own reflectivity, the material that gets vaporised off the surface of the comet could also shield it from some of the radiation. The comet will only heat up at a rate depending on it's temperature, the quantity of water boiled off and the radiation actually absorbed.

      As for the other message about mainly water or not, I though that the tail is normally formed from bits left behind after the water boils off ejecting parts. The length of the tail in this case may be due to the volume of water boiled off before meating it's maker (or a decendant of it!)

    3. Baskitcaise

      ...just how did it survive so long?

      It went at night.

    4. OrsonX

      OR..... a whelk's chance

      in a supernova.

  6. samhail
    Thumb Down

    missing something :(

    I'm missing something here... how could a 3-million-km-long comet plunge into the sun which is 1.391 million KM long ?

    1. Dan Howarth

      Yes, you are. :)

      The _TAIL_ was 3M km long.. not the comet itself.

    2. Colin Miller

      the *tail* is 3million km long

      ... which is made of small particles of comet that have been loosened by the solar wind. About as nebulous as smoke. The core of most comets are 10-100km in diameter.

    3. Paul_Murphy

      Tail - not comet

      The tail was 3milkil long - the head (ie the solid bit) of the comet was probably not more than 10 miles or so across I would think.

      more here:


  7. Anonymous Coward


    You did miss something - the comet's *tail* was 3 million Km* long.

    *For distances this huge (it's 10 light-seconds, FFS) Megameters (Mm) needs to see more use, IMO

    1. Richard 120


      You'd want Gigameters?

    2. AndrueC Silver badge


      You can use any prefix you want (gotta love the metric system) but if you like megametres you don't have to go into space to use them. New York is about 5.5Mm from London.

      You probably do need to be in space to use gigametres though - the Earth is approx 157Gm from the Sun.

      You have to look a lot further afield to use petametres, examtres, zettametres and yottameteres. I had to go to Wikipedia in fact :D

  8. jake Silver badge

    100,000-degree heat?

    Shirley no more than 10 or 20 thousand Kelvin, or thereabouts?

  9. Tom Cooke

    Comet Halley (Hoyle)

    Lots of good science in this 50's sci-fi novel...

  10. Graham Marsden

    Disaster Area...

    ... did it better.

    Ship, sun, BOOM!

  11. Mike Holden


    "(100,000 degrees C is ) Shirley no more than 10 or 20 thousand kelvin, or thereabounts?"

    Nope, 100,000 celcius = 100,000 - 273.15 kelvin, or 99,726.85 degrees kelvin.

    So, ot all intents and purposes, still 100,000 with reasonable rounding.

    Although Wikipedia lists the surface temperature as 5,778 degrees Kelvin. So, who's right, Wikipedia or El Reg?

    1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      Wiki 1, Reg 0

      Six other sources besides wikipedia give the solar surface temp as between 5500K and 6000K

    2. jake Silver badge

      People, RTFA FFS ...

      It was talking about the chromosphere, which IIRC peaks out at around 20,000 kelvin, but is more nominally in the 5,000 K to 6,000 K range. (Source: dimly remembered astronomy course taken at Foothill Junior College when I was in 9th grade roughly 35 years ago ... I believe the data came from Skylab's Solar work, but I could be wrong, and I can't be arsed to look it up.)

    3. Laie Techie

      Celcius to Kelvin

      > Nope, 100,000 celcius = 100,000 - 273.15 kelvin, or 99,726.85 degrees kelvin.

      0 C (freezing point of water at sea level on earth) = 273.15 K

      100,000 C = 100,000 + 273.15 K = 100,273.15 K

      Maybe math classes in the US aren't as bad as I thought ...

  12. Z80

    Who mentioned the surface?

    The Sun's atmosphere is much hotter than its surface.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No surface

      The sun doesn't actually have a surface, it's just a big ball of gas that gets gradually thinner the further you get from it's center. What you see as the 'surface' is the point where the gas is dense enough to go from transparent to opaque. And yes, this point is cooler than the rest of the atmosphere above it. Why this is the case is still poorly understood.

      1. Eastander

        Sun hotter above it's surface?

        Interesting ideas about an alternative theory for the sun here - appears to explain many observed anomolies. No agenda, just read it with my Spock head on and thought - 'facinating'

  13. Aaron Jacobs

    That's no comet

    It's Disaster Area's stunt ship.

    That means I must have missed the gig - bugger

    1. Gobhicks

      Re: That's no comet

      Well I was there - see above - it was properly awesome

  14. Thomas 4


    A very small object with a long tail colliding with a large, spherical object. Reminds me of something.....

    1. asiaseen


      The sun's pregnant.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Yes, and...

      ...the 'Deepest penetration yet' filmed in STEREOvision!

  15. rc

    "the boffins think that the comet actually survived a surprisingly long time"

    Not too surprising really, considering comets are rocks with a little ice, not dirty snowballs.

    Comet = A rock with an elliptical solar orbit.

    Asteroid = A rock with a circular solar orbit.

    Same stuff, different orbit.

    The tail of a comet is an electrical phenomenon. As it moves nearer to the sun the comet changes its state of charge which takes ionized particles of rock dust with the shed electrons. Sort of like electrical discharge machining (Or a big fluorescent light without the glass tube).

    Hear me now, believe me later... One of these days astronomers are going to have to admit they're wrong and come to grips with the data they've already collected. The 'dirty snowball' theory gets less rational with every probe we send. It's getting laughable now.

    1. jake Silver badge


      Come back with spectrographic data of the tail, kid.

      Oh, wait. We already have that. And you are wrong. EXCEPT for dirty snowballs that have been near the sun on several/many occasions, of course. Consider, for example, Hale-Bopp ... Plenty of Deuterium, in the form of heavy water.

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Well I'm glad you know better than the astronomers

      Surely it's only a matter of time before they bow down to your superior intellect.

  16. archengel46
    Thumb Up

    meant to be an exercise

    but it took over our lives! Hmm... that sounds familiar.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    "'Deepest penetration yet' filmed in STEREOvision"

    ...and I thought it was taken using a night vision filter.

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