It’s a Universe full of objects hurtling through space
August 30, 2022
Chalk this week’s post up to ‘things I never knew.’ It was on August 30, 1979, when a comet collided with the sun. Whoa.
How do scientists know the date? According to an article in the New York Times from October 10, 1981, it was over two years after that the event was uncovered:
“A comet collided violently with the Sun two years ago, generating tremendous energy and scattering debris millions of miles across the solar system, scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory reported today.
The event, recorded by satellite instruments, is the first known instance of a celestial body colliding with the Sun, said Dr. Donald J. Michels. It also marks the first time a comet has been discovered by a satellite.
Dr. Michels said the collision, which occurred Aug. 30, 1979, was recorded by an experiment called Solwind. Because of delays in analyzing the spacecraft data, the event was not discovered until recently, he said.
Solwind monitors activity in the Sun’s outer corona, part of its atmosphere, by using an occulting disk that creates the effect of a permanent solar eclipse. Sun’s Heat Disintegrated Comet
‘Total eclipses observed from the Earth last no more than a few minutes,’ Dr. Michels said. ‘Solwind has been able to observe the Sun’s corona through these artificial eclipses night and day for nearly three years.’
He said the comet had passed through the instrument’s field of vision as it streaked toward the Sun and was quickly disintegrated by the Sun’s blazing heat. ‘We estimate that when the comet hit the Sun, the energy released was about 1,000 times the energy used in the United States during an entire year,’ Dr. Michels said.”
Of course even thinking about such an event is likely to cause anxiety for some of us. I’m in that camp. A few months ago my brother loaned me a movie from his collection. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. It was an oddly compelling movie which explored the concept of what individuals might do if they knew the world would be destroyed by a comet in three weeks time.
It is upon this premise the audience enters a Dystopian world where the rules and norms no longer apply. We see the coming apocalypse through the viewpoint of a character named Dodge and his ‘friend’ for the end of the world, Penny.
Thanks to the Infallible Wikipedia we also learn:
“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a 2012 American apocalyptic romantic comedy-drama film, written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, in her feature directorial debut. The film stars Steve Carell and Keira Knightley as a pair of strangers who meet and form an unexpected bond as they help each other find closure in their lives before an asteroid wipes out life on Earth. The inspiration for the title comes from a line in Chris Cornell’s song ‘Preaching the End of the World’, from his 1999 debut solo album Euphoria Morning.
The film was theatrically released on June 22, 2012, in the United States by Focus Features. It received mixed reviews from critics and was a box-office bomb, earning $9.6 million on a $10 million budget.”
Had I read the review on the Infallible Wikipedia prior to watching the movie, I probably would not have watched it. Somehow, even as all sorts of insane events occurred, I kept hoping for a happy ending. Spoiler alert: there isn’t one.
Now, for those who are interested, the next close comet/asteroid encounter that earth is predicted to have is on Friday, April 13, 2029. But we don’t need to worry – or so NASA tells us. Although it will be one of the closest encounters ever, it won’t hit earth.
Carpe Diem! I have things to do and books to write!