Tag Archives: solar system

The ‘Eccentricity’ Of New Comet C/2020 F8 (SWAN) Is Very High, But This Could Change With More Observations.

by Anura Guruge

Click to ENLARGE.

It has NOT been deemed Interstellar — i.e., originating from outside our Solar System.

But, the eccentricity — pretty damn close to ‘1.0’ — and the CRAZY 10 MILLION YEAR orbital period suggest that this is a strange comet — for NOW.

But, we only have 90 observations of it yet. Basically, early days.

With more observations the orbital path will get REFINED and will most likely change.

Just wanted to make sure you got that.

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by Anura Guruge

Mesmerizing Map Of The ‘Near’ Solar System By Biologist Eleanor Lutz.

by Anura Guruge

Click to access original article in ‘Visual Capitalist’.

I saw this on my Google News feed and had to share it with you.

Brilliant. Mesmerizing. Kudos. Bravo. THANK YOU.

Definite leap forward from the older map provided by NASA.

I do NOT in any way want to be churlish but given my passion for dwarf planets and comets I have to contend that this does NOT go far enough. It stops at the Kuiper Belt. The Solar System goes much, much further.

There is the ‘Scattered Disc’ for the start and the ‘Oort Cloud‘. See diagram below. But, this map is still BRILLIANT. I love it.

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by Anura Guruge

ANOTHER Naked Eye Visible Comet Ahead Of Christmas 2018? C/2018 V1 (Machholz-Fujikawa-Iwamoto).

by Anura Guruge

Click to ENLARGE.

Comet C/2018 V1 ( Machholz-Fujikawa-Iwamoto )

Discovered: November 7, 2018 (yes, just last week).

Discoverers: One is Arizona (Donald E. Machholz, Jr.) & two in Japan (Shigehisa Fujikawa & Masayuki Iwamoto). You can find more here. Hence the name which credits all three.

C/2018 V1 is much more of a CLASSIC comet than our current ‘Christmas Comet of 2018‘, i.e., 46P/Wirtanen. That is why it has a ‘C/’ designation while the other is a ‘P/’. The ‘P/’ denotes that 46P/Wirtanen is a PERIODIC comet — one that swings around the sun on a regular basis (like a commuter). The ‘C/’, on the other hand, means that is a NON-PERIODIC. It means that this comet has not been previously seen in the last 200-years. Typically it means that it is a FIRST TIME visitor from far, far out in the Solar System, ideally from the Oort Cloud, the incubator of most comets at the very edge of our Solar System.

So, we are assuming it is a FRESH comet, with a lot of frozen matter that will sublimate as the comet gets closer and closer to the Sun. That is what makes it visible, gives it a tail and with luck makes it spectacular. Right now it is touch and go. Viewed through a powerful telescope you can already see a blue tail — that color indicating the presence of ionized Carbon Monoxide (CO+).

On Tuesday, November 27, 2018 it will be at its closest to Earth — 62 million miles. Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) that could have been the GREAT COMET of 2013 would have been 40 million miles. So, C/2018 V1 will be 22 million miles further out. BUT, unlike ISON it will make it around the Sun. That is a given. It is NOT a sungrazer. Actually it doesn’t get very close to the Sun! As you can see from the above diagram it does not even cross Mercury’s orbit.

Right now it is BORDERLINE — but shows more promise than 46P.

I will keep you posted. This was a BIG heads up.

Comet ISON IF it had rounded the Sun — rather than getting FRIED by it, because it went so close.


Click to ENLARGE and admire. From the JPL Small-Body Database Browser.

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by Anura Guruge

Titan, Saturn’s Largest Moon, Was Discovered This Day 362-Years Ago; March 25, 1655.

by Anura Guruge

Click to ENLARGE and read here. Wikipedia link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titan_(moon)

Titan is the HUGE yellowish orb — too big to be fitted, per scale, in this diagram.

Titan is marked with the ‘T’.

So neat. Discovered ahead of Uranus — the first planet discovered with a telescope.

That Titan is the second largest Moon in the Solar System (to date) helped, Jupiter’s ‘Ganymede’, discovered 45 years earlier being the largest.

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by Anura Guruge

Edmond Halley, Of Comet Fame, But Really A Brilliant, British Polymath Died 275 Years Ago — Today.

by Anura Guruge

Click to access the Wikipedia entry for “Edmond Halley”.

Edmond Halley (29 October 1656 to 14 January 1741 (new Gregorian calendar)), though best known for COMPUTING the periodic orbit of the comet that bears his name, was quite the man.

Son of a wealthy soap-maker in London, Edmond had the privilege of being able to pursue the many things that interested him.

Just a few of his many amazing achievements include:

  • Financing and publishing Sir Isaac Newton’s, quite literally earth-moving, Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) — which among other things included his eponymous laws of motion.
  • Worked out how to determine the size of the Solar System by observing transits of Mercury and Venus across the face of the Sun.
  • Reliably catalogued the stars in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Built a working diving bell!
  • Realized that some comets were periodic and calculated the orbital period of one, 1P/Halley — which he never got to see!
  • Britain’s second Astronomer Royal.

He was an exceptional mathematician. He also made some major contributions in the fields of meteorology, geophysics and physics,


Halley’s famous comet; 1P. In 1910. Click to ENLARGE.

Last time around was in 1986 when it didn’t put on a big show because the Sun was between the comet and Earth when it was at its closest to Earth.

Next time — 2061! 45 years hence. I will not be around.

Google Doodle for Edmond Halley's 355th Birthday, November 8, 2011 (old calendar).

Google Doodle for Edmond Halley’s 355th Birthday, November 8, 2011 (old calendar).

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by Anura Guruge

American Astronomer Maria Mitchell’s 195th Birthday Google Doodle.

Anura Guruge, June 8, 2013.

Anura Guruge

MariacometGDthLast Google Doodle post:
>> Rosalind Franklin’s 93rd Birthday … — July 15, 2013.
≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ Check CATEGORY ‘Google Doodle’ for other posts —>>> (side bar)


Click on images to access.

Link will be updated after August 1, 2013
for access from the Google Doodle Archive.

Click for Wikipedia entry.

Click for Wikipedia entry.

Here is the Wikipedia entry.

The official Minor Planet Center (MPC) data for the comet she discovered: C/1847 T1.

Click to ENLARGE.

Click to ENLARGE.

So it perihelioned, i.e., went around the Sun (at its closest) on November 14, 1847, three weeks after it was discovered on October 26, 1847. Not like today when we can spot comets 18 months away.

Note the eccentricity. Just over 1! That is significant. That means that it was on an escape orbital path — meaning that it could leave the solar system. But, we now know that eccentricity can fall, i.e., drop below ‘1’, once a comet like this gets further out into space, i.e., beyond Jupiter. Check out my comet books.

She is NOT the first woman to discover a comet. This is from my ‘Comets: 101 Facts & Trivia‘ book.

Click for more ...

Click for more …

I Gave My Son A 99 Cent Book For His 21st Birthday Today, May 28, 2013. That Was The Best That I Could Do.



 ..by Anura Guruge

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Given my now permanent state of impecuniosity I wasn’t in a position to give my son anything major (e.g., a Corvette) for his 21st birthday. The best I could do was a $0.99 cent book — and it isn’t even one of those ‘self-help’ books on how he should proceed forward. He seems to be doing quite well, working as an editorial intern for ‘New Hampshire Business Review’ right now. This was, however, a book he had asked for, though I am sure he thought that I would not oblige. Well, I did, and thanks to the detour I took to write the two Comet ISON books (not to mention all of the craziness of the papal transition) the timing kind of worked out quite well.

Well here is the book. Yes, it does have his name in the title (and as such the cover) and it is dedicated to him for his 21st birthday. So it wasn’t just a book I picked up in a yard sale. His words, in the Summer of 2011, when he saw “Devanee’s Book of Dwarf Planets” was: “I want a book too“. I was surprised. Devanee had asked for a book with her name, after I had done “Teischan’s ABC Book of Great Artists” but she was nine at the time. Matthew was 19. But, I took him seriously. I had been working on this since September 2011.

This is a big book, 76,500 words. It is quite technical too, and was the most difficult book I have written to date. I struggled with it, but at the same time it was rewarding. As they say this really was a character building experience for me. Astronomy has so, so many really, really neat concepts and laws such as orbital resonances, accretion, Kirkwood gaps, Olber’s paradox, Yarkovsky effect and Lagrangian points. The ‘Yarkovsky effect‘ alone is pretty amazing and demonstrates the absolute brilliance of some truly gifted individuals. This phenomenon  has to do with the consequences of sunlight heating one side of a small, rotating solar system object during the day. This causes a heat differential between the opposite sides of the body, resulting in a small radiation pressure thrust. This thrust, though small, can over time cause small bodies such as asteroids and meteoroids to change their orbital path. Just amazing. But, my favorite is ‘Lagrangian points‘. We think of Jupiter, quite rightly, as having enormous gravitational pull. But, there are thousands (if not more) of small asteroids that glibly litter Jupiter’s orbital path with Jupiter powerless to brush them away! These pesky asteroids are in two huge clusters, one cluster always 60° ahead of Jupiter and the other 60° behind. These are Lagrangian points — areas where the gravity of any orbiting body, even one as big as Jupiter’s, is neutralized by other rotational forces. Brilliant. Really makes you sit back and marvel the cleverness of the folks that work out all these non-intuitive quirks of nature. 

Click to ENLARGE. Map of asteroid distribution within the solar system clearly showing the huge swarms of ‘Trojans’ that escort Jupiter around its orbit thanks to Lagrangian points.

In this book I tackle all of these concepts and more. My forte is supposedly that of being able to explain technical things in ways that newcomers to the field can come to terms with them. That is what I set to do. It was easier with computer stuff because I had decades of experience and was totally immersed in it. Plus, I use to do seminars where I would explain that stuff. I have always found that it is easier for me to write about something if I had stood up and spoken about it in front of an audience a few times. That was actually the brief I had for writing my first book. I used to do four to five, 5-day seminars on ‘SNA’ in the early 1980s, and it still amazes me that there would be 60 to a 100 people attending each seminar. The original publisher of my first book, who also happened to organize some of these 5-day seminars told me: ‘Just try and write what you stand up there and talk about for 5 days‘. In those days I did use to have a semi-photographic memory of sorts. I never used notes. Everything I was going to say was in my head and I could recall how I used to say it in public. So, that is what I did. I wrote that 500 page book by pencil! I would sit down, recall what my spiel would be about that topic, and write it down. It worked. When the book came out people who attended my seminars, and who would get a book for doing so, said that the book was like a transcript of my 5 day stand up dissertation. I haven’t stood up and spoken about astronomy in 12 or 13 years. So this was harder. But, it was fun.

4 Vesta is an asteroid; those small rocky bodies found mainly in that wide ‘belt’ between Mars and Jupiter. It discovered in 1807 was the fourth asteroid to be discovered. It is now the largest asteroid in the solar system in terms of mass, given that 1 Ceres was promoted to being a dwarf planet alongside Pluto.  It is also a protoplanet, an embryonic terrestrial planet. Some even refer to it as the smallest terrestrial. It is a fully differentiated body credited with having the oldest known surface in the solar system. It is a carefully preserved relic from the very early days of the solar system. Some of you will also remember that NASA’s Dawn spacecraft spent nearly 14 months in orbit around 4 Vesta in 2011 – 2012.

Click to get FREE Kindle reading APP from Amazon for whatever device you have whether it be iAnything, PC, Android, Palm etc. etc.

Click to get FREE Kindle reading APP from Amazon for whatever device you have whether it be iAnything, PC, Android, Palm etc. etc.

Extract from the book. Click to ENLARGE.

Extract from the book. Click to ENLARGE.