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Solar Storm

Can Comets Cause Solar Storms?

There’s an interesting story over at Universe Today, asking if a recent comet hit caused an explosion on the Sun:

This amazing video from the SOHO mission (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) shows a sun-diving comet hitting the solar surface on October 1, 2011 and unexpectedly a huge explosion occurs shortly after. Are the two events related? Probably not, but solar scientists don’t know for sure. The region where the CME originated was on the opposite side of the Sun from the comet hit, so that is very great distance. Scientists say there is no known mechanism for comets to trigger a CME.

Seeing this video I was immediately reminded of a blog entry that Jameske posted many years ago here at the Grail, titled “Comet Vomit“, in which he linked to a number of videos showing just these sorts of strange interactions between comets and the Sun:

According to Fred Whipple, from whom the dirty snowball comet theory originated, comets are composed of a nucleus usually around 5 to 10 Km in diameter, irregular in shape, and made of a loose agglomeration of ice, rock and hydrocarbons. The nucleus is surrounded by a diffuse atmosphere of material called a coma that can expand to up to 250000 km in diameter on close approach to the sun to form little more than vacuum, and they have highly elliptical orbits.

…Given the above it follows that there is absolutely no connection whatsoever between this comet and the sun, and this comet and the sun, and this comet and the sun, and this comet and the sun, and this comet and the sun, and this comet and the sun.

Finding patterns in coincidences, or is this some genuine, as yet unknown interaction between comets and our star? I look forward to seeing future scientific research into this fascinating little mystery…

Update: Some critical comments about the possibility of a connection from Phil ‘Bad Astronomy’ Plait and at the Sungrazing Comets website. Also this video from the Bad Astronomer:

  1. Connection not known now
    But its likely to be there.

    The shock wave of the initial impact would have gone around the surface of the Sun, to meet at a point antipodal to the initial impact.

    On Earth this is seen in antipodal volcanic outbursts following impact.

  2. The Mojo of the SOHO and the SDO
    Not so long ago I met someone who worked on SOHO and the SDO. I asked him what he thought about sungrazing comets causing coronal mass ejections – he denied there was any such thing. In other words, what you see in various movies in which the approach and orbit of a sungrazer, or indeed the plunge of a comet into the sun, happens around the same time as a coronal mass ejection is pure coincidence. I said, what if it is some kind of trigger effect? Again, it was pure coincidence, no trigger effect, no interaction. Simple as that. How could it be anything other that coincidence? I then asked him what he thought about the sun violating the laws of thermodynamics. He got very irate and said they were working on it – models of complex magnetic fields WOULD be the solution.

    1. Electric Universe…….
      You beat me to the link. After several years of reading and digesting their material, and talking with electrical engineers that I know, I have no doubt that the folks at Thunderbolt are correct in their theories.

      The hardest part for me is teaching this to my daughter. What I mean by that is that I home school her right now, and the Electric Universe theory flies in the face of the local science teachers who are rather pissed at me for teaching my daughter about it.

      To me, it’s a serious dilemma. Do I teach her about both even when I believe the current accepted model is false or unsustainable?

      Ah well, that’s a discussion for another time and thread. Suffice to say, for me I believe that there is most definitely a relationship between the CME & comet impacts/grazing.

      1. Thunderbolts
        Yeah, I was thinking the same thing when I saw the video. It’s very likely that the Electric Universe guys have it wrong on many things; but the idea of studying the electrical properties of these plasmas and what large-effect they might have elsewhere surely deserves more scrutiny.

  3. coincidence
    I confess this is something that I have not followed at all. The obvious point is that any number of similar events could be pure coincidence and what one really needs to know is how often such comet hits happen without any following explosion – or indeed if such explosions are so common that you would expect the coincidence when even a rare comet hits.

    I apologise if I’m stating the obvious here. Like I said, I know nothing about this solar/comet stuff.

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