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

Cosmic Queries – Comet NEOWISE

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

If you were lucky enough this past July, you might have caught a glimpse of Comet NEOWISE before it left Earth’s view. If not, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. On this episode of StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Negin Farsad are answering fan-submitted Cosmic Queries about Comet NEOWISE and more with cosmochemist and author Natalie Starkey, PhD. 

First discovered in March this year, you’ll learn a little background about NEOWISE. Where did it come from? Can we be sure that it came from our solar system? Natalie tells us why speed can be a strong signifier of where a comet is coming from. You’ll learn what it means to be a “long-period” comet. You’ll also learn why comets have elongated orbits instead of circular orbits. 

Next, Neil gives us some history on the Oort Cloud. We take a look at how NEOWISE got its name and the naming process of scientific objects. Neil also shares some interesting information about Halley’s Comet that you might not know. 

Natalie tells us what unanswered question about comets she most wants to see answered. We ponder whether comets and/or asteroids could have delivered the building blocks of life to Earth. Explore amino acids on comets and in space. Would we find amino acids on NEOWISE? Examine the possibilities of Earth having “interstellar water.” And, you’ll also investigate if we can harvest water from comets to solve water crisis and famine here on Earth. 

We discuss how different chemical compositions change the color of comets. You’ll hear why a comet’s “tail” can be a misnomer. Lastly, find out what it means for a comet to be “dead.” All that, plus, Natalie takes us through the scene of two comets colliding with each other and we debate if a probe could hitch a ride on a comet to a world beyond. 

Thanks to our Patrons Matias Mancini, Sondra Ballegeer, Justin Yi-Riley, Kevin Carr, Jocelyn Germinal, Andrei M Burke, Brian Lin, and Adolph Guenthner for supporting us this week.

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons and All-Access subscribers can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.

About the prints that flank Neil in this video:

“Black Swan” & “White Swan” limited edition serigraph prints by Coast Salish artist Jane Kwatleematt Marston. For more information about this artist and her work, visit Inuit Gallery of Vancouver.

In This Episode

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