Worried About Comet Elenin?

I read and see so much about PlanetX, Elenin, a dwarf star and great catastrophe in 2011/2012 that I felt the time was right to post a blog entry offering an alternative to the hype.

Now, in doing so, it looks like I’ve taken a position on this issue, whereas I like to be a fairly neutral observer, neither slavishly following the offical government viewpoint on any event, nor throwing my hat into the ring of conspiracy theories. I happen to believe there’s truth on BOTH sides (not just of this issue but other hot topics like 9/11, biological warfare and so on).

For instance, the following piece, written by a sceptic, was – like some others denouncing the Elenin scare – removed from the blog after a legal dispute. I ask myself, why? Of all the blog entries on the Net, why would this cause so much trouble that it needed to be removed? I would have thought the much more alarmist pro-Elenin posts were more likely to be removed? However, be that as it may – I present this just as it stands and let you follow the links and make your own mind up.

FAQs from Ian Musgrave

Orbit of Comet C/2010 X1 Elenin (red) visualised with Celestia,
showing Elenin at closest approach to Earth.  (Image courtesy of Ian Musgrave)

Astronomer and blogger Ian Musgrave from South Australia has been active in debunking the misinformation and nonsense that is being disseminated about Comet Elenin. He has written several wonderful posts featuring the actual realities of this long-period lump of dirty ice that has, for some reason, attracted the attention of doomsdayers, 2012ers, and end-of-the-world scaremongers.

Earlier this week, Ian’s Elenin posts on his Astroblog were taken down by the web host, as someone filed a claim for alleged violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). “Given that there is no copyrighted material on these pages, with either material generated entirely by me or links to and citation of publicly available material, I believe this was just a frivolous attack on people countering Elenin nonsense” Ian said.

Astroblog was not the only site that was targeted, and thankfully, Ian’s web host agreed that the claim was without merit, and the posts are back online. In the interim, however, Universe Today offered to publish Ian’s excellent “Comet Elenin, a FAQ for the Worried” post, and even though the original is now available again, Ian and I decided to still post this on UT so that more people with questions about Comet Elenin would have the chance to have their worries allayed. Have your questions answered below.

Will Comet Elenin Hit Earth?

No, its closest approach is 0.23 AU on Oct 16, 2011, where 1 AU is the distance from the Earth to the Sun. To put this in perspective, this is only a little closer than the closest approach of Venus to Earth, and roughly 100 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon. This distance is from the latest MPEC ephemeris which is based on over 100 observations from multiple observatories that have been continuously tracking the comet, so it won’t change appreciably.

Surely if Elenin Was Going to Hit the Earth NASA/the Government Would Hush it Up?

Which government? The Australian Government, the UK Government? The Italian Government? The South African Government? Amateur astronomers world wide are following this comet and continually talking to each other. The have the programs to work out where the comet is going. If the comet was coming anywhere near us, the amateur community would be first to know, and there is no keeping them quite. Consider how wide spread the information is about Apophis, which is a real, if extremely marginal, hazard.

Will it Cause Earthquakes, Abnormally High Tides or Other Disasters

No, Elenin is a mere 3-5 kilometres across and has less than a billionth of the tidal force of the Moon at closest approach (as well as a negligible magnetic field). If the Moon can’t cause the poles to tip, cause massive tidal floods or earthquakes, Comet 2010 X1 Elenin won’t. We’ve been closer to other comets before with no ill effect.

But What About Mensur Omerbashich’s Paper that Says Elenin is Causing Earthquakes?

It shows nothing of the sort, earthquakes are no more common during comet alignments than at any other time.

But it’s bigger than Jupiter!

No, that’s the coma , the thin haze of gas and dust that surrounds the comet nucleus. The nucleus of C/2010 X1 Elenin is roughly 3-4 Km in diameter and Elenin has a coma around 50,000 km wide at the time of writing (which is a third of the diameter of Jupiter). The average density of the coma is about the same as the density of the atmosphere on the Moon. A coma is a feature of all comets that approach the Sun closely, for example comet 81P Wild (nucleus 4 Km diameter) had a coma of 50,000 Km and 103P Hartley had a coma of 150,000 Km. The Great Comet of 1811 had a nucleus of around 30km in diameter and had a coma nearly as big as the Sun. Comet Halley is 6×15 km and had a coma 100,000 km wide when it last approached Earth. We survived them all (and 103P Hartley came nearly twice as close as Elenin will), and we will survive Elenin without incident.

But I Can See a Picture of it in WikiSky, it’s HUGE!

That is the carbon star CW Leonis.

Is Elenin a Moon of a Brown Dwarf Star? No.

But Brown Dwarf Stars are so Cold, you Can’t See Them.

No, coldest detected so far is ~370K (about the temperature of a hot cup of tea), the the warmest are around 2200 K, and most range between 500-1000 K. They may not produce much visible light, but they reflect light. Jupiter has a composition similar to those of Brown Dwarf stars. Jupiter’s cloud tops are a chilly 128 K and it reflects light just fine. Any Brown Dwarf in the inner solar system would be painfully obvious.

Will Going Through the Comets Tail Affect Us?

No, should the rather small tail of Elenin actually pass over us, it’s doing a pretty good imitation of a vacuum (about 100 atoms per cm3). We have been through bigger and denser comet tails before with no effect whatsoever (especially the Great Comet of 1861).

Why isn’t Comet Elenin in the News?

For the same reason that the other 16 comets discovered in 2010 didn’t get in the news, or the 5 comets discovered in 2011. They are all dim. The News is only interested in comets that are spectacular, readily visible to the unaided eye or are being visited by spacecraft. Comet 2009 P1 will be as bright, if not brighter than C/2010 X1 Elenin, but that’s not in the news either. Amateur and professional astronomers are watching comet Elenin and others avidly, but the news channels don’t care about our obsessions with faint fuzzies.

Why Can’t I Find Information of Elenin at the NASA Website?

Because NASA is not the arbiter of all things astronomical. You won’t find information on C/2009 P1, C/2011 C1 or any of the faint comets discovered during 2010 and 2011. NASA does have information of comets that its spacecraft have visited, or are interesting in some other way, but it’s not an exhaustive comet site like Cometography or Aerith.

(editor’s note, NASA and JPL’s Near Earth Object Office did publish an article about Comet Elenin in May, 2011, which can be found at this link, confirming it will safely fly past Earth.)

I Saw Comet Elenin Near the Sun in August 2010/Now

In August 2010 only really powerful telescopes could see Elenin. You saw Venus. If you are seeing something bright near the Sun in the morning sky now, it’s Venus.

How Can I Tell What IS in the Sky and Avoid The Venus Confusion?

For freeware standalone programs there is Cartes du Ciel and Stellarium (my favourite).  For Web based solutions Skyview Cafe, Sky-Map and GoogleEarth (KMZ file here) all work.

Where Can I Find Orbital Elements for Celestia or Stellarium? Here.

Where Can I Find Images of Elenin? Here, and here and a nice image of C/2010 X1 near to NGC 3376 is here.

I have Photographed/ Seen a Photograph of a Double Sun, is this Elenin? It’s lens flare.

Other Good Links:

Tell South Dakota to Prepare!

In the spirit of the age, (which is endless speculation about the signs of the times), I decided to make this map and tell you about the data within it. As you know, I have a habit of putting my tongue firmly in my cheek over these things.

Is there a serious point to be made – I don’t really know. The only really SERIOUS worry is that Christians fall into the trap that Jesus warned of. It was the very first warning he made when talking about the endtimes, that is, “Take heed that you are not deceived”.

Matt 24:4-14 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is NOT YET. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.

9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and THEN the end will come.

False prophets will abound (like Harold Camping) who will even seduce the elect, and every kitchen table prediction will take on deep meaning when people start to panic about the state of the world, and all the signs we daily see. The more that “lawlessness abounds” the more troubled people will be, and the more inclined to grasp at straws.

Yes, there ARE signs! But as far as I’m concerned all of them go on the back burner until I know something definite from God, and it lines up with scripture. For instance, the end cannot come until certain things happen, such as the greatest apostasy ever known, when “the love of many grows cold”.

2 Thess 2:2-4 “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first”

So then – curious earthquake facts:  three recent large earthquakes have struck around the “ring of fire” marking three points on a sort of rectangle on the map. Completing that rectangle with a fourth earthquake would point towards the centre of the United States.

As you see from the map (which is no more than a bit of fun with data really) if you calculate the coordinates then you end up with the 4th point being in South Dakota. The nearest town is Lemmon (so perhaps this data is a bit of a lemon as the Brits would say.)

Here’s another fact, if you count the days between the earthquakes so far it’s 188 days between the one in Chile and the one in Christchurch; and its 188 days between Christchurch and Japan – curious, eh?

So, now we can tell the good folks of South Dakota to expect another huge earthquake 188 days from the one in Japan, which is 15th September. Hmmm. There’s NEVER been an earthquake there so that makes it all the more certain I think. (joking.)

Finally let’s look at the names of the earthquake areas for another curiousity.

The first one in Chile was at Chillan (“where the sun sits”) and Concepcion both of which suggest a beginning; the second earthquake was at Christchurch, specifically a place called Charing Cross – which suggests a religious connection, Christ’s Church and “broken cross” or “bent cross” from ‘Cerring’, an Anglo-Saxon word meaning bend.

The third earthquake was near Sendai which has the meaning in Japanese of “eternity”, specifically a “thousand generations”.

The distance between each event was roughly five and a half to six thousand miles. So far then, in symbolic terms, we have had from the Beginning to Christ’s Church and from Christ’s Church to Eternity, six thousand years.

I’m tempted to say the next earthquake will be in Los Angeles (the angels) because that is what comes after eternity. It’s a distance from Sendai Japan of about 5331 miles.

Or maybe nothing will happen at all. More likely.

I will now add one more factoid to the mix. The next 188 days takes us up to Rosh Hashanah, the start of the next Jewish year. It also takes us to the full moon and the Autumn Equinox.

15th September 188 days since Japanese earthquake.
23rd Sep = full moon and equinox.
29th sep Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year

However, a significant and prophetic event (if it actually happens) is on 20th Sept when the Palestinians’ bid to join the UN as a sovereign nation, capital city East Jerusalem, is voted in the UN.

Everything these days is invested with great meaning. I’m not disbelieving nor disrespectful of signs if they are genuine, but I advise great caution until the truth is known.

More earthquakes on the way?

Former USGS Geologist Jim Berkland suggests there are more earthquakes to come around the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and if the progression holds to its course, America is next.

See the Fox News interview and read the transcript HERE.

Fish deaths are a clue. There have been massive amounts of fish dying and being washed ashore, and historically this has been associated with changes in the earth’s magnetic field; it also happened just before major earthquakes.

The main points in the interview are that the moon is closer to the earth on 16th March than in the last 20 years, exerting more tidal pressure on the earth, right at the time of the Spring Equinox which also contributes tension.

All this helps to release the strain that is building up in techtonic plates and may spark off earthquakes. There is what he calls a “top seismic window” for events between 19-26th this month. This is partly why Geologists had warned about the Japan earthquake.

There is an order and continuity to earthquakes that should be heeded. The massive fish kills at Redondo beach, Mexico and other places points to earth changes that may precede an earthquake.

Jim Berkland says “I used to just scoff at these kinds of things, because I was a mainstream geologist, until I found out that earthquakes are fitting a pattern. The big earthquake in the Indian Ocean followed massive beachings of whales in New Zealand and Australia and Tasmania. And then within couple of days, they had a 8.3 in south of New Zealand, and then came the 9.1 in the Indian Ocean, with the big tsunami, on the very day of the full moon. The previous big quake and tsunami was in Alaska, which is a 9.2 magnitude event, on the day off the full moon, on the 27th of March”.

As Christians we know that everything is according to God’s plan and therefore, even if some things seem inevitable they need not happen. Let us pray for mercy and “help in time of need”.