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Old 02-18-2009, 02:41 PM   #1
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Paging a physicist, astro or ......

FOXNews.com - Strange Green Comet Passing by Earth Next Week - Science News | Science & Technology | Technology News

An odd, greenish backward-flying comet is zipping by Earth this month,

How can a comet be said to be backward flying? As far as I know they have no internal propulsion systems. No friction in outer space to determine aerodynamics. How is front or back identified on a comet?
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Old 02-18-2009, 02:57 PM   #2
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Illusion created from the direction it is coming from? IIRC, comets tails always point away from the sun.
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Old 02-18-2009, 03:32 PM   #3
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The article itself explains this:

While all the planets and most of the other objects in the solar system circle the sun counterclockwise, Lulin circles clockwise, said NASA astronomer Stephen Edberg.

Thanks to an optical illusion, from Earth it appears as if the comet's tail is in the front as the comet approaches Earth and the sun.

"It essentially is going backwards through the solar system," he said.
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Old 02-18-2009, 04:03 PM   #4
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Ok, so in this solar system forward is defined as counterclockwise. Got it. Thanks.
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Old 02-18-2009, 04:37 PM   #5
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I suspect Cute Fuzzy Bunny is behind this whole coment thing. Would explain how he's using his time these days
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Old 02-18-2009, 05:03 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by NotReady4Purple View Post
The article itself explains this:

While all the planets and most of the other objects in the solar system circle the sun counterclockwise, Lulin circles clockwise, said NASA astronomer Stephen Edberg.

Thanks to an optical illusion, from Earth it appears as if the comet's tail is in the front as the comet approaches Earth and the sun.

"It essentially is going backwards through the solar system," he said.
Assuming, presumably, one is looking down on the solar system from above the North Pole. Looking up at the solar system from the below the South pole would have the terms clockwise and counterclockwise reversed. And here I'm picking on the guy from NASA, not NR4P.
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Old 02-18-2009, 05:41 PM   #7
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My kitty, aka Comet spins around in circles sometimes...
(yup, that's his name)
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Old 02-18-2009, 05:43 PM   #8
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My kitty, aka Comet spins around in circles sometimes...
(yup, that's his name)
Comet is one fine lookin' dude!
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Old 02-18-2009, 05:46 PM   #9
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Thank you.... He thinks he's the...here it comes...cat's meow.....
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Old 02-18-2009, 05:50 PM   #10
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Assuming, presumably, one is looking down on the solar system from above the North Pole. Looking up at the solar system from the below the South pole would have the terms clockwise and counterclockwise reversed.
Agreed

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And here I'm picking on the guy from NASA, not NR4P.
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Old 02-18-2009, 06:00 PM   #11
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Now I'm really confused.
Solar system has a north pole? How big is the magnetic field of the solar system? Who measured it?
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Old 02-18-2009, 06:27 PM   #12
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Now I'm really confused.
Solar system has a north pole? How big is the magnetic field of the solar system? Who measured it?
I was referring to our North Pole up in the Arctic Sea, just as a convenient reference point.

The point I was trying to make is that the NASA guy was using terms like "clockwise" and "counterclockwise" which are precise only if you also know which way you're looking at the solar system -- from the "top" / "Northern Hemisphere" / the "regular way" for those of us in the US, or from the "bottom" / "Southern Hemisphere" / "upside down".

I assumed that the NASA guy probably lives in the US and that he was assuming looking at it from the "top".

The "optical illusion" also really doesn't have anything to do with the fact that this comet goes the opposite direction to most comets and planets, so that's just bad placement of that paragraph in the article.

OK, I'll shut my curmudgeonly trap now.

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Old 02-18-2009, 06:32 PM   #13
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Now I'm really confused.
Solar system has a north pole?
Seems it does: The Sun Does a Flip

Or at least the sun does. It is by far the largest object in the solar system so maybe the sun's is the solar systems?
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Old 02-18-2009, 06:43 PM   #14
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Greenish? I'd love to turn into the Hulk for a while to smash stuff. Would be good exercise and good for stress.
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Old 02-18-2009, 06:47 PM   #15
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I assumed that the NASA guy probably lives in the US and that he was assuming looking at it from the "top".

The "optical illusion" also really doesn't have anything to do with the fact that this comet goes the opposite direction to most comets and planets, so that's just bad placement of that paragraph in the article.

OK, I'll shut my curmudgeonly trap now.

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Actually I do appreciate your explanations. Thanks for the efforts.

Even after 40+ years in the US, I still get trapped in the literal mode at times. Some of my misunderstandings tend to be hilarious when I think about them for a while.
I tend to read things according to the dictionary meanings as I learned the words at 17. Have gotten fairly good with slang and other figurative expressions, but there are times.....

DW has nominated me to be a curmudgeon. I have a ways to go.
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