Astronomy & Science Links

Comet Ison and Length of Comet Orbits

One of the crucial questions I had when first researching comets was about how long a comet might take from the time it enters the inner solar system and gains a tail, orbits the sun (reaches perihelion), and leaves the inner solar system and loses its tail.  I think that the red comet, which was visible from the end of book one until some time in book three, may be returning to make a pass close by the plant.  For this to be possible, the comet would need to orbiting clockwise around the sun, as opposed to the counter-clockwise of the planets, so that it can pass earth on each side of its orbit; and the comet would need to be traveling somewhat slowly, about the same speed as earth (“Planetos”).  I’m happy to say that both appear to be possible.  Comet Ison took a little over a year from time that it was first spotted to reach perihelion, where it unfortunately got just bait too close to the sun and perished. Comets can indeed orbit the sun opposite the planets, in very eccentric and erratic orbits, and orbits which are angled against the plane of the ecliptic.

Fall of a Thousand Suns

This is essentially the real-life version of the “Astronomy of Ice and Fire” theory.  I have not read this book yet (it’s on the list), but I am well familiar with the subject material, and the synopsis of the book does a fantastic job of summarizing the “astronomy is behind the mythology” phenomena.  From “Fall of a Thousand Suns:”

In 2007, a team of twenty-four scientists presented evidence that massive comet fragments exploded over North America 12,850 years ago, killing millions of creatures and people. If this event happened in the not so distant past, why didn’t our ancestors’ share this horrifying experience with their children and stress the importance of telling the story to future generations? Fall of a Thousand Suns: How Near Misses and Comet Impacts affected the Religious Beliefs of our Ancestors proves that they did. There are descriptions of the cataclysmic event in dozens of religious texts and myths around the world.

Lacking science, each culture described the comet impact as best they could: As a lion sent by the Sun that “roared” and scorched the earth, a giant fiery snake that flew through the air and killed people, a sun that fell on distant lands, or an angel that fell from the heavens to Earth. With the help of religious scholars, anthropologists, and astrophysicists from JPL and NASA, the author of Fall of a Thousands Suns spent years investigating what our ancestors’ knew about comets and their godlike destructive power. 

Red Comets are Magic

Elizabeth Howell, writing for Universe Today and consulting with Lowell Observatory astronomer Matthew Knight, tells us why we can’t ever see a giant red comet in real life.  Thanks for bursting our bubble, guys!  In all seriousness, there’s a bunch of really interesting comet mechanics stuff here, a great quick reference.  Elizabeth also keeps a lively court on her wordpress and twitter feeds; full of interesting astronomy stuff.

Eclipse Comets

There have been several instances of comets being visible during a solar eclipse, and the most famous was the so-called “eclipse comet” of 1948.  Here is the only picture that I could find – I believe it is the only one in existence.  Here’s the wikipedia entry on the 1948 eclipse comet.  The best photo of an eclipse comet is from 1882! – and I promise, this is not a fake photograph. It was taken in Cairo as the comet approached perihelion during a total solar eclipse.  Very cool.

Comet Impacts Can Produce Metals, Glass, and Diamonds

From Popular Mechanics’s website:

“Those asteroids do all kinds of damage,” says Harlow. “It’s like setting off a nuclear bomb, but bigger.” He says that any space rock hitting Earth since life has existed would have created some diamonds, because the high-pressure impact can wreak havoc with the area’s geology, turning quartz into siderite, making metals if the searing-hot meteorite strikes an ore, and melting sand into glass.”

My general interpretation of the clues for Lightbringer and Dawn is that each they have three components: glass, steel, and stone.  Dawn would have milkglass and some sort of steel-phosphorus alloy made from a white comet stone. Lightbringer would be made from dragon glass and a steel alloy made from the black sun-drinking “bloodstone” moon meteors. Additionally, the Sword of the Morning constellation has a “diamond”(bright star) in its hilt, while the Valyrian steel sword “Nightfall”(which is meant to give us clues about Lightbringer) has a moonstone set in the pommel, so that may be part of it.

I think what George is indicating in the text is that these two anachronistic steel swords from the Dawn Age were made from comet material, and indeed we see here that a comet impact is actually a very good explanation for the existence of advanced metal alloys well before we had supposedly developed the smithing knowledge or skill to make such alloys.  The comet impacts would have produced ready-made alloys and metals which man may have had no way or creating.  Imagine you are a Dawn Age ancestor of House Dayne and you are searching through there rubble of this impact site.. and you come across some shiny white metal lump, like no substance you’ve ever seen before. You could throw this in your basic crude, bronze age forge and melt it down enough to shape a sword out of it – the hard work of bonding the different materials together to make steel is already done for you by the comet impact.  Add some blood sacrifice and dragon fire, and presto!

The Color of Shooting Stars

“Shooting stars” are meteors which fall into the earth’s atmosphere and ignite in the atmosphere.  They are not comets, although debris left behind by comets can fall to earth as a shooting star.  Usually they are meteors or asteroids.  In The Hedge Knight, Dunk sees a green shooting storm which he takes for a sigil (along with the elm tree).  I wondered what might cause a green shooting star, and found the answer at National Geographic:

The colors of this shooting star may also indicate the minerals that make up the space rock. Different elements emit different-colored light when they burn. Iron, one of the most common elements found in meteors, glows yellow. Silicates, which contain a form of the element silicon, glow red. A green glow, clearly visible in the trail of this shooting star, indicates the presence of burning copper.

Jet Erupts from Comet’s Dark Side

Space Exploration Network (SEN) apparently has not heard about the three attempts to forge Lightbringer.  Someone should send them an email! “Guys, it’s just trying to forge Lightbringer! Nothing to worry abo– actually we should probably worry about it.” Here is the full article.

Sen—Europe’s Rosetta space probe has caught the moment a new jet of dust was ejected from the comet it is accompanying into the inner Solar System. But the jet has presented scientists with something of a puzzle.  The puzzle is that the new jet appeared on a side of the comet that was in shade and so not getting warmed directly by the Sun. It is the general warming as a comet approaches the Sun that produces its atmospheric coma and tails of gas and dust. 

Also from SEN, European Space Agency scientists are landing a space probe on a comet.. just because they’re basically done with the probe, and the comet is around, so why not?  Nice job guys.  Some people do a couple of extra pushups, you guys squeezed in an extra comet-landing. Hats off.

Comet to Watch For in Late 2015

National Geographic has a short list of cool celestial phenomena to observe this year, including a comet in December.  Note the Morningstar-like behavior of the comet as it enters the inner solar system.:

If early predictions play out, comet Catalina (C/2013 U10) may brighten enough in December to be seen with binoculars (and possibly even with the naked eye) as it rises higher each day in the early morning skies.

On December 7, the comet should be visible at dawn in the southeastern sky, passing just 5 degrees away from the razor-thin crescent of the brilliant Venus.

We’re the Aliens: DNA Precursors Dropped From Space (maybe)

Presented without comment from Motherboard / Vice.com:

Amidst all the BS research claiming evidence of alien life on meteorites coming out of hackish journals with embarrassing websites, a new article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences may not argue for the existence of aliens in our solar system, but does make the claim that the origin of life on Earth may have come from elsewhere. While this idea is not new, it has started to gain more traction.

4 thoughts on “Astronomy & Science Links

  1. interesting! so the meteor shower from the bursting comet can be not only the source of the carbon dioxide ice but also of the oily greasy black stone found in Ashai, at the Sea Stone chair etc.
    The wikipedia has an interesting snipet about dry ice storms on Mars (paragraph titled ‘Extraterrestrial occurrence’). Although this research postdates the writing of GoT.
    Breathing the gas form of dry ice causes hallucinations in small doses and death in larger ones (eg the 8 wildlings found dead by Will – gassed).

    Like

  2. hi LML,
    i have been very interested with your expose.
    I did read somewhere (just can’t remember where and can’t find it again, so can’t credit the author) that CO2 is involved with the Others.
    From that point, and after reading your expose, i have looked into this link in a bit more detail and found that real comets do contain not only water ice but also CO2 ice (commonly called dry ice).
    So my current thinking is that the meteor shower which you explained so well, dropped CO2 ice chunks all over the place. I tend to call it magic ice as readers of fantasy or not so interested in science fiction. There is many bits of text in the right POV chapters that support my thinking.

    Have you considered this possibility?

    cheers

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    • Hey Arrys! Thanks for the comment. I had not come across the CO2 ice thing until you mentioned it. Of course I’ve talked a lot about “black ice,” and I’ve connected it to the comet being a ball of dirty ice. I’m not sure about the idea of CO2 and Others. But check this out – while I was checking out the dry ice thing, I found a NASA article about comet nuclei and discovered that comets have oily black stone:

      “The surface is very black.

      What is this black stuff?

      The very black material on the surface is carbon-based material similar to the greasy black goo that burns onto your barbecue grill. The comet originally formed from ices (mostly water ice), silicate dust (like powdered beach sand), and this type of black space gunk.”

      Liked by 1 person

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