24 December 2016 | Lovejoy

Lovejoy

Image credit: Maciej Kapkowski | Click image to enlarge

Image Data

  • Location: Brok, Poland
  • Date: January 2015
  • Camera: SBIG STL 11000 M
  • Optics: Officina Stellare Veloce RH200
  • Mount: ASA DDM 60
  • Filter: Baader Planetarium LRGB

Comet Lovejoy lC/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) is a long-period comet discovered on 17 August 2014 by Terry Lovejoy using a 0.2-meter (8 inch) Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope. It was discovered at apparent magnitude 15 in the southern constellation of Puppis. It is the fifth comet discovered by Terry Lovejoy. Its blue-green glow is the result of organic molecules and water released by the comet fluorescing under the harsh UV and optical light of the sun as it passes through space.

The comet lived up to its name by releasing large amounts of alcohol as well as a type of sugar into space. It’s discovery marks the first time ethyl alcohol, the same type in alcoholic beverages, has been observed in a comet. The finding adds to the evidence that comets could have been a source of the complex organic molecules necessary for the emergence of life.

“We found that comet Lovejoy was releasing as much alcohol as in at least 500 bottles of wine every second during its peak activity,” said Nicolas Biver of the Paris Observatory, France, lead author of a paper on the discovery published Oct. 23 2015 in Science Advances. The team found 21 different organic molecules in gas from the comet, including ethyl alcohol and glycolaldehyde, a simple sugar.

Comets are frozen remnants from the formation of our solar system. Scientists are interested in them because they are relatively pristine and therefore hold clues to how the solar system was made. Most orbit in frigid zones far from the sun. However, occasionally, a gravitational disturbance sends a comet closer to the sun, where it heats up and releases gases, allowing scientists to determine its composition.

In July 2015, the European Space Agency reported that the Philae lander from its Rosetta spacecraft in orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov­-Gerasimenko detected 16 organic compounds as it descended toward and then bounced across the comet’s surface. According to the agency, some of the compounds detected play key roles in the creation of amino acids, nucleobases, and sugars from simpler “building-block” molecules.

Astronomers think comets preserve material from the ancient cloud of gas and dust that formed the solar system. Exploding stars (supernovae) and the winds from red giant stars near the end of their lives produce vast clouds of gas and dust. Solar systems are born when shock waves from stellar winds and other nearby supernovae compress and concentrate a cloud of ejected stellar material until dense clumps of that cloud begin to collapse under their own gravity, forming a new generation of stars and planet

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