comet like tail

In the pictured image, a processed composite, the comet was captured early this month after Comet Lovejoy brightened unexpectedly and sported a long and intricate ion tail. Remarkably, the typically complex effect of the Sun’s wind and magnetic field here caused the middle of Comet Lovejoy’s ion tail to resemble the head of a needle. Comet C/2017 E4 (Lovejoy) was discovered only last month by noted comet discoverer Terry Lovejoy. The comet reached visual magnitude 7 earlier this month, making it a good target for binoculars and long duration exposure cameras. What’s happened to Comet Lovejoy (E4) since this image was taken might be considered even more remarkable – the comet’s nucleus appeared to be disintegrating and fading as it neared its closest approach to the Sun two days ago. 

Image Credit & Copyright: Fritz Helmut Hemmerich

Trailing wishes

a/n: a short story I wrote for a writing club meeting.

There once was girl who was cursed by a mischievous jinn. Her parents stared on in horror as he laughed and said-

“No caveats. A wish free of strings.”

And then he disappeared.

But they had little to fear, because their daughter was also blessed with a bone deep wisdom. Her curiosity was crossed with brambles of temperance, a little bit of blooming pragmatism that prevented her from ever using the wish.

Her first test came when she was six.

She’d wanted a pony for so long…but there was no room in her bed and no room in her yard.

And while the wish battered at her pursed lips, she staunchly refused. The stars were glittering outside her window, beckoning her to make her wish. But she merely shook her head, and wrote down her desire in her yearly to Santa Claus.

She knew it wouldn’t give her what she wanted, but it was the best way to save herself the heartache of a wish.

Because there’s always a catch to the see sort of things.

She grows up with lessons of hard work. Her parents were immigrants. People who believed that the best of life could be reached through effort. So her blessed wish is tucked to the back of her memories.

She lives as she learns. Everything tastes so much sweeter with effort, and even when her hands are rough and she makes terrible mistakes, she simply laughs and files away that lesson for later.

She lives a good life into young adulthood.

And then it becomes one of bittersweetness.

Her mother is cursed with a failing body. The wish is close to breaking through. She’s close to her beside, and when she’s just about to say it, her mother’s eyes flare open and wildly look at her.

Her frail fingers wrap around her wrist and she says.

“Don’t. This is the way it should be.”

The girl merely weeps in agreement, and she learns to live with the lifelong resentment her father looks at her with after her mother passes.

So she lives and loves.

She meets a man. She loves him enough to tell him about her curse.

He calls it a blessing. That should have tipped her off to the worst part of him.

He’s loving. He’s cheerful. But she can’t really blame him for his greed. Ambition is a wonderfully potent thing, and when it clouds your sight, you’ll hurt to get what you want.

He hurts her. With words and with lovers.
He tells her, if you loved me, you would make that wish for me.

Still, her wisdom wins out over her aching, shattered love. She gathers the remnants of what she once felt for him, and hurls them into the depths of her soul.

There’s no need for a clean goodbye.

When he wakes to an empty bed and half the closet free, he regrets.

But she’s long since flown away, her wish trailing despondently behind her.

She travels instead.

She lets the love of humanity fill her to the brim, lets her smile unfurl for those she meets in a strange new land. She helps where she can and learns what she wants.

It’s an existence that comes not without a bit of effort, because in a distant land, she finds a jinn.

It’s a starry night. Her campfire is starkly bright orange against the dark rolling hills of the desert. The bedouins she travels with tell her stories, and when they head off to sleep, one by one, she stays awake. Listening to the crackling of the fire.

It seems to speak, and she swears she can hear it say-

“Why do you not make a wish?”

She answers with a smile of her own, slightly apprehensive that she speaks to a fire.

“Because I want to make my own path.”

The fire remains silent, innocently burning.

“Your own path?” The response comes from a delicately featured man who sits beside her.

He’s dressed in the robes of her travel companions. White and flowing, but his smile is curious and his eyes are golden as the embers that burn close to her toes.

She doesn’t know him.

But there’s something that unfolds at the back of her mind. An answer that tumbles like starlight to the tip of her tongue as she clamps down on her will.

He’s dangerously beckoning. Dangerously uncorking her curiosity.

But she stands firm in her humanity.

“I have no need for wishes, jinn.” She mutters stubbornly, picking at the folds of her blanket. She pointedly meets his gaze, determination etched into her expression. “As a matter of fact, if it’s in your ability, would you please take away the one you gave me.”

He laughs. It’s round, pretty type of laugh that sends shivers down her spine.

And then he shakes his head.

“I wasn’t the jinn that gave you that wish. But it calls me. It trails off of you like a comets’ tail. Are you sure you don’t want it granted?”

She shakes her head firmly, and she merely looks up at the star strewn sky.

“No thank you. I’m content.”

“Content. Not happy?”

“Happy too. And sad. And angry…and everything that I want to feel.”She simply shrugs.

“Curious…very curious. And would you rather spend the rest of your days wondering what would have happened if..”

“If what?” She asks dully, and then sighs. “If I’d wished for my mother to live? If I’d wished to be accepted into that graduate program? If I’d wished for my ex to be successful?”

“If you’d wished for a small horse.” He adds in blithely. And then he gives that same infuriating lovely laugh.

“Sure. If I’d wished for a pony, I’d be more than content…at that moment…when I was eight. If I’d wished she had lived, I would have lost her eventually and she would have hated me for taking away her choice. If I’d wished him success, would he have still loved me?”

She unravels for a bit as she says all of this, and he sees beyond the frustration and the hurt. She’s genuinely living. Hurting and laughing and understanding.

“And you’re correct. Who’s to say that the road not taken would have been a better life?”

“I can’t say. But life’s too short to regret.” She smiles at him. “But I’m going to keep going forward, even if all I am in the end is a shooting star that can’t last.”

“Fair choice.” He agrees and with a musing look. “I could learn much from you.”

She laughs.

“You could learn much from yourself, jinn.”

He makes his own wish. That he may stay to learn a bit more of how to live a life not plagued by certainty.

“May I stay with you until I learn?” He asks quietly, and while he may have an inkling of the future, his path is uncertain for once.

The girl simply shrugs her shoulders underneath her blanket.

“Sure.”

He hums in gratitude, and they watch the stars wheel across the sky into a watery dawn. The wish trailing from her like a shooting star, and his own wish crackling like a patient fire.

His presence is explained in vague terms to her travel companions and is accepted with little suspicion.

And they live a life of learning and regrets. But still she makes no wish, and still, he stays by her side.

She grows old. He’s a being of magic and mayhem, and he does not.

As she’s dying, he holds her withered hand in between his. He is tearful, and for once, her curiosity is free from its bounds and it sparks in her eyes.

“Your wish…you’re falling, my dearest friend.”He tells her, his tears falling hot and heavy against her wrinkled smile.

And she whispers her last words-

“I wish I had lived a life where I made a wish.”

He doesn’t have anything to say to that, because she slumps back onto her pillow.

She made her wish while she still lived. There’s nothing left for him to grant.

He understands then what she had known all along. The value of accepting your choices is a precious thing.

Chiron in the Houses

Chiron was discovered in 1977 and originally classified as an asteroid with a weird travel pattern. Further study discovered a comet-like tail attached to Chiron, classifying him as a comet. Chiron lies in between Saturn and Uranus, making him a literal and metaphorical transition from the inner planets (our personal planets), to the outer planets (our universal planets). Chiron in the chart is an indicator of our deepest wound, maybe a certain part of your life where problems keep arising, or that you feel you have a lack of. Chiron reveals to us our weakness with the hope we transcend it. If we transform ourselves and heal from our wounds, we receive a certain talent, teaching ability, or potential in that particular area. The house placement of Chiron shows us in what aspect of our life we are wounded.

First House: Your deepest wound is found in your sense of self and identity.

Second House: Your deepest wound is found in your sense of self-worth.

Third House: Your deepest wound is found in communication with others, the world, and yourself.

Fourth House: Your deepest wound is found in your familial life.

Fifth House: Your deepest wound is found in creative expression.

 Sixth House: Your deepest wound is found in your health and in daily routine activities.

Seventh House: Your deepest wound is found in your close, intimate relationships.

Eighth House: Your deepest wound is found in your relationship with death, sex, and source of survival.

Ninth House: Your deepest wound is found in your growth as a person.

Tenth House: Your deepest wound is found in your career and with your reputation.

Eleventh House: Your deepest wound is found in your friends, social groups, and hopes for the future.

Twelfth House: Your deepest wound is found in your subconscious; inside yourself.

NASA's Cassini, Voyager missions suggest new picture of Sun's interaction with galaxy

New data from NASA’s Cassini mission, combined with measurements from the two Voyager spacecraft and NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, suggests that our sun and planets are surrounded by a giant, rounded system of magnetic field from the sun – calling into question the alternate view of the solar magnetic fields trailing behind the sun in the shape of a long comet tail.

The sun releases a constant outflow of magnetic solar material – called the solar wind – that fills the inner solar system, reaching far past the orbit of Neptune. This solar wind creates a bubble, some 23 billion miles across, called the heliosphere. Our entire solar system, including the heliosphere, moves through interstellar space. The prevalent picture of the heliosphere was one of comet-shaped structure, with a rounded head and an extended tail. But new data covering an entire 11-year solar activity cycle show that may not be the case: the heliosphere may be rounded on both ends, making its shape almost spherical. A paper on these results was published in Nature Astronomy on April 24, 2017.

Keep reading

The Signs as John Green Books (& quotes from them)

Fire: Paper Towns

Aries: “When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.”

Leo: “Isn’t it also that on some fundamental level we find it difficult to understand that other people are human beings in the same way that we are? We idealize them as gods or dismiss them as animals.”

Sagittarius: “It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.”

Earth: An Abundance of Katherines

Taurus: “Do you ever wonder whether people would like you more or less if they could see inside you? But I always wonder about that. If people could see me the way I see myself—if they could live in my memories—would anyone, anyone, love me?”

Virgo: “How do you just stop being terrified of getting left behind and ending up by yourself forever and not meaning anything to the world?”

Capricorn: “What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?”

Air: Looking for Alaska

Gemini: “I wanted to be one of those people who have streaks to maintain, who scorch the ground with their intensity. But for now, at least I knew such people, and they needed me, just like comets need tails.”

Libra: “Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia […]. You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.”

Aquarius: “It always shocked me when I realized that I wasn’t the only person in the world who thought and felt such strange and awful things.”

Water: The Fault in Our Stars

Cancer: “Much of my life had been devoted to trying not to cry in front of people who loved me, so I knew what Augustus was doing. You clench your teeth. You look up. You tell yourself that if they see you cry, it will hurt them, and you will be nothing but a Sadness in their lives, and you must not become a mere sadness, so you will not cry, and you say all of this to yourself while looking up at the ceiling, and then you swallow even though your throat does not want to close and you look at the person who loves you and smile.”

Scorpio: “That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.”

Pisces: “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.”

8

That’s no comet; that’s Pluto! Comet-like tail and X-rays discovered at Solar System’s edge

“This is exactly what you’d expect if Pluto were acting like a comet! Objects far beyond Neptune are so cold that they’re covered in ices; New Horizons discovered a world rich in nitrogen, methane and water ice. But Pluto has a highly elliptical orbit, and its perihelion, or closest approach to the Sun, takes it even inside the orbit of Neptune, which it achieved only a few decades ago: in 1989. The closer Pluto is to the Sun, the more the ices on its surface vaporize, forming a hazy atmosphere. That atmosphere can then be gradually stripped away by the high-energy particles of the solar wind, similar to the process that strips Mars’ atmosphere away, only on a much slower, more distant scale.”

What, in our Solar System, has a long tail from boiled-off frozen ices? What simultaneously leaves an X-ray signature when the solar wind collides with those boiled-off atoms, kicking electrons out and causing X-ray emissions? If you guessed a comet, you’d be “traditionally” correct, beginning with Comet Hyukutake in 1996. But way out beyond any comets, Pluto does the exact same thing. Thanks to a combination of the New Horizons flyby and observations with the Chandra X-ray observatory, we’ve been able to measure, verify and learn some incredibly interesting physics about the largest object discovered to date out beyond Neptune. Perhaps most interestingly, it’s also the first time we’ve detected X-rays from beyond SATURN in our Solar System, and ushers in a new era in astronomy: Kuiper belt X-ray observing!

Come get the whole story over on Starts With A Bang today!

TITAN’S ATMOSPHERE EVEN MORE EARTH-LIKE THAN PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT

Scientists at UCL have observed how a widespread polar wind is driving gas from the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan. The team analyzed data gathered over seven years by the international Cassini probe, and found that the interactions between Titan’s atmosphere, and the solar magnetic field and radiation, create a wind of hydrocarbons and nitriles being blown away from its polar regions into space. This is very similar to the wind observed coming from the Earth’s polar regions.

Titan is a remarkable object in the solar system. Like Earth and Venus, and unlike any other moon, it has a rocky surface and a thick atmosphere. It is the only object in the solar system aside from the Earth to have rivers, rainfall and seas. It is bigger than the planet Mercury.

Thanks to these unique features, Titan has been studied more than any moon other than Earth’s, including numerous fly-bys by the Cassini probe, as well as the Huygens lander which touched down in 2004. On board Cassini is an instrument partly designed at UCL, the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer (CAPS), which was used in this study.

“Titan’s atmosphere is made up mainly of nitrogen and methane, with 50% higher pressure at its surface than on Earth,” said Andrew Coates (UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory), who led the study. “Data from CAPS proved a few years ago that the top of Titan’s atmosphere is losing about seven tons of hydrocarbons and nitriles every day, but didn’t explain why this was happening. Our new study provides evidence for why this is happening.”

Hydrocarbons are a category of molecules that includes methane, as well as other familiar substances including petrol, natural gas and bitumen. Nitriles are molecules with nitrogen and carbon tightly bound together.

The new research, published today in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, explains that this atmospheric loss is driven by a polar wind powered by an interaction between sunlight, the solar magnetic field and the molecules present in the upper atmosphere.

“Although Titan is ten times further from the Sun than Earth is, its upper atmosphere is still bathed in light,” says Coates. “When the light hits molecules in Titan’s ionosphere, it ejects negatively charged electrons out of the hydrocarbon and nitrile molecules, leaving a positively charged particle behind. These electrons, known as photoelectrons, have a very specific energy of 24.1 electron volts, which means they can be traced by the CAPS instrument, and easily distinguished from other electrons, as they propagate through the surrounding magnetic field.”

Unlike Earth, Titan has no magnetic field of its own, but is surrounded by Saturn’s rapidly rotating magnetic field, which drapes forming a comet-like tail around the moon. In 23 fly-bys which passed through Titan’s ionosphere or its magnetic tail, CAPS detected measurable quantities of these photoelectrons up to 6.8 Titan radii away from the moon, because they can easily travel along the magnetic field lines.

The team found that these negatively-charged photoelectrons, spread throughout Titan’s ionosphere and the tail, set up an electrical field. The electrical field, in turn, is strong enough to pull the positively charged hydrocarbon and nitrile particles from the atmosphere throughout the sunlit portion of the atmosphere, setting up the widespread ‘polar wind’ that scientists have observed there.

This phenomenon has only been observed on Earth before, in the polar regions where Earth’s magnetic field is open. As Titan lacks its own magnetic field the same thing can occur over wider regions, not just near the poles. A similarly widespread ‘polar wind’ is strongly suspected to exist both on Mars and Venus – the two planets in the solar system which are most Earth-like. It gives further evidence of how Titan, despite its location in orbit around a gas giant in the outer solar system, is one of the most Earth-like objects ever studied.

I wanted to be one of those people who have streaks to maintain, who scorch the ground with their intensity. But for now, at least I knew such people, and they needed me, just like comets need tails.
—  Looking for Alaska

This series of images shows the asteroid P/2013 R3 breaking apart, as viewed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope in 2013. This is the first time that such a body has been seen to undergo this kind of break-up. The Hubble observations showed that there are ten distinct objects, each with comet-like dust tails, embedded within the asteroid’s dusty envelope. The four largest rocky fragments are up to 200 metres in radius, about twice the length of a football pitch. The dates on which the various observations were taken are marked at the bottom of each image, with frames from 29 October 2013, 15 November 2013, 13 December 2013, and 14 January 2014 respectively. The 14 January 2014 frame was not included in the science paper and is additional data.
Caption: Hubble Heritage Team

NASA, ESA, D. JEWITT (UCLA)