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Cronica Mozarabe - April 750, Cordoba, Spain: Three suns, a sickle of fire



Type of Spiritual Experience



This Is Why Comets Glow An Eerie Green Color - Dr Ethan Siegel

Every so often, with extreme regularity, comets will plunge from beyond the orbit of Neptune into the inner Solar System. From well beyond the orbit of Saturn, they remain cold, frozen, and in a dormant state; although they're always moving, nothing about them changes. But when they start to approach the orbit of Jupiter, being in close proximity to the Sun changes things.

The outer parts of the comet heat up, the frozen ices on the surface start to sublimate, and the radiation and wind from the Sun start to push the surface molecules away. Before long, your comet glows with not just the reflected light from the Sun, but with two tails — one grey, one blue — and an eerie, green coma around the center. Here's why that happens.

Comets are made out of a mix of rocky components, similar to what makes up the Earth's mantle, dust, and ices. Ice doesn't just mean water-ice (H2O), but also volatile components like dry ice (solid CO2), methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3), and carbon monoxide (CO). The full suite of cometary ices was investigated by the Rosetta mission, but these are the big five. Under typical, cold conditions, the ices remain frozen, but as the comet nears the Sun, they start to heat up.

The first thing that happens to a comet, as it approaches the Sun, is that the amount of ultraviolet light striking it becomes great enough that it can start ionizing the weakest molecule there: carbon monoxide. This creates an abundance of the CO+ ion, which streams directly away from the Sun. This turns into a blue ion tail, and is the first comet-like feature to appear as a comet begins to heat up.

The ion tail always points directly away from the Sun, and is always blue in color. As the comet gets even closer to the Sun, however, somewhere around the orbit of Mars, it heats up further. As the nucleus of the comet gets hot, more of the ices melt and diffuse away from the surface, creating a large, diffuse set of particles around the nucleus. This diffuse region is known as the coma of a comet, and is made of a mix of gas and dust.

Once this coma gets created, it has no option but to get struck by sunlight. The pressure from the sunlight striking the coma pushes the dust particles out of the coma and away from the Sun, creating a second, yellow/white tail: a dust tail. Although the blue ion tail always points directly away from the Sun, the dust tail curves, as the comet moves in its elliptical orbit around the Sun.

The ion tail is narrow, as all the ions of a specific type are the same size. The dust tail is wide, since dust particles vary in size and so are given a variety of speeds. And finally, large particles can be sheared off the comet, creating what's known as a debris stream. This stream will continue in the same elliptical orbit that a comet follows, but will spread out along the path over time. When a planet (like Earth) passes through the debris stream, it creates a meteor shower.

But the coma is more than dust. There is also gas, created from the sublimated compounds that were part of the comet. There aren't merely simple ices and rocks on this body, but more complex molecules made out of these fundamental building blocks: mostly hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen. Two molecules that are of particular interest are cyanide/cyanogen (CN: a carbon-nitrogen bond) and diatomic carbon (C2: a carbon-carbon bond).

This teal or blue-green color comes about because when these gases are stimulated by the ultraviolet light present in sunlight, their bound electrons get kicked to higher energy levels: a basic rule of atomic transitions. But electrons don't remain forever in a higher-energy state; they drop down to lower energy levels. And when they do, some of those transitions result in an emission line that falls in a part of the electromagnetic spectrum that human eyes are sensitive to.

When you see that green color, it's an indicator of a combination of things:

  • that the coma contains large amounts of CN and C2 molecules,
  • that the comet is active (outgassing) and warm (close to the Sun), and
  • that the potential for a schism or eruption is at its highest.

the ion tail, the dust tail, the coma, and the nucleus — are common to practically all comets that enter our inner Solar System. When a comet gets warm enough, it creates an extended, gas-rich cloud known as a coma around its nucleus. If the coma contains carbon-nitrogen and carbon-carbon bonds, the Sun's ultraviolet light will excite the electrons inside it, causing them to emit a green glow when they drop down in energy. And whenever you see that green glow, know that there's a chance of the comet's nucleus splitting apart. It may not happen this time, or even most times, but there's a chance for a visually spectacular show.

A description of the experience

Cronica Mozarabe  - April 750, Cordoba, Spain: Three suns, a sickle of fire

"In the nones of April, on Sunday during the first, second and almost the third hours, all the citizens of Cordoba saw three suns which shone and twinkled in a wonderful way preceded by a sickle of fire and emerald; and, from its appearance, by order of God, his angels devastated all the inhabitants of Spain with intolerable hunger."

Source: Cronica Mozarabe of the year 754 (or "Continuatio Hispana de San Isidoro").


Comet or UFO!!?



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Ordinary person

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