Making what is believed to be its first pass through our solar system, Comet Lulin will be passing by Earth tonight at its closest point to us on its celestial voyage. Full details are here from National Geographic. Despite its close tracking tonight to our planet, about 38 million miles, you'll still need to use a telescope or binoculars to see it. As a new comet, Lulin has just started to burn the frozen chemicals that make up its composition on this pass around the sun, giving astronomers a rare chance to see what happens with a brand-new comet

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

bryan kennedy's picture

You missed my favorite point about this comet. It's green. As the comet gets closer to the sun its outer layers are melting and spewing cyanogen,(CN)2, and diatomic carbon, (C2) out into space. These gases glow green out there in the vacuum.

posted on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 12:25pm
Thor's picture
Thor says:

Hey man, St. Patrick's Day is still three weeks away...that's when we can celebrate its green-ness!!

posted on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 4:36pm
Candace's picture
Candace says:

how hot or cold is this commet exactly?

posted on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 10:22pm
bryan kennedy's picture

Great question Candace. I thought I knew the answer to this one but some quick Googling put me in my place (an ignorant one).

Since people always talk about comets being made of ice and dust, I sorta assumed that it would be really cold on the surface. But, since it's melting, maybe the sun just warms it up a bit???

The answer it seems is that it depends, mostly on how close the comet is to our Sun. Caltech researchers took the first ever comet temperature measurements in 1966. Using an infrared telescope they clocked the Ikeya-Seki comet at almost 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit! That's hot.

But a more recent NASA mission, Deep Impact, crashed a satellite right into a comet out in space. That comet was further away from the sun at the time and was much colder. Their measurements show the max temp. on the comet to be about 350 degrees Kelvin (or 170 degrees Fahrenheit). Still pretty warm.

I wonder what the temperature of Lulin is?

posted on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 1:06pm

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