August 9, 2020 7:49 pm

Monday, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Negin Farsad, and Natalie Starkey Answer Fan Questions About Comet NEOWISE

First discovered in late March, 2020, Comet NEOWISE has been something of a staple in the night sky throughout July. However, as the comet heads out of Earth’s view, we’re feeling a bit blue. So, to celebrate NEOWISE’s arrival and departure, Neil deGrasse Tyson, comic co-host Negin Farsad, and cosmochemist and author Natalie Starkey, PhD, are answering fan-submitted Cosmic Queries about anything and everything NEOWISE and about comets in general.

Comet NEOWISE on a flyby. Credit NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Lab/Parker Solar Probe/Brendan Gallagher

Comet NEOWISE. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Lab/Parker Solar Probe/Brendan Gallagher.

We start out with a question a lot of you asked: Are we sure NEOWISE originated from our solar system? You’ll learn how the speed of a comet can tell us if something is coming from outside our solar system. We reminisce about ʻOumuamua, and Neil gives us a history lesson on the discovery of the Oort Cloud. Find out more ab out the Kuiper Belt and why some comets are “long-period comets.”

Natalie tells us what unanswered question about comets she most wants to see answered in her lifetime. We ponder whether comets and asteroids could have delivered the building blocks of life to our planet. Natalie tells us about the amino acid variation in space and we discuss if we should expect to find amino acids on NEOWISE. We also dive into the idea of Earth having “interstellar water.”

How did NEOWISE get its name? We take a look at the traditional naming process when it comes to scientific objects. Neil shares a story about the naming and discovery of Halley’s Comet. We chat about Armageddon – would it be a StarTalk comet/asteroid show if we didn’t? You’ll also find out if it’s possible to harvest water from asteroids and comets to solve water crisis here on Earth.

Lastly, we take a look at how different chemical compositions change the color of comets. You’ll also learn more about a comet’s tail and why it can be a misnomer. Natalie explains why two comets colliding in the sky wouldn’t be as exciting as you think. All that, plus, we investigate if a probe could hitch a ride on a comet.

Please join us tomorrow for Cosmic Queries – Comet NEOWISE at 7pm ET right here on our website, as well as on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re a StarTalk+ Patron subscriber, you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free at 7pm, too.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
-Ian Mullen


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