Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Sometimes things are just to neat not to share. This is one of those things.

This is the comet Encke. It's official name is 2P/Encke and was named that way because it was the very second periodic comet discovered (The first was halleys) and because its period was determined by the astronomer Johann Franz Encke.

The picture above is a link to a time lapse move on the Astronomy Picture of the Day site. Each frame is approximately 45 minutes apart. It shows the comet being approached and passed by a coronal mass ejection. As the mass passes the comet it rips the tail right along with it. The APOD site states that the tail was probably ripped off by the magnetic forces in the coronal mass ejection and not the physical interaction - which is in itself interesting since that implies that the tail is electrically charged. I always thought it was evaporated matter from the comet itself - but perhaps it is, rather, some ion.

EDIT: found this story about it too - adds more to what could have happened to that poor tail.

1 comment:

John O said...

Seems like a more appropriate name for a comet that's lost its tail would be Bob. :) At least it grew back.

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