The Corner

Pimp My Comet

Ah, engineers. From a couple:

In space, the top speed would be the speed of light.  If the comet were

going that speed, we’d never know it was coming since the light

reflected from it would get here at the same time as the comet.

– A Reader and Engineer Geek

p.s.  When I started writing this I figured I was being quite clever

and original.  Now that I’m done, it occurs to me that this will

probably the 200th email you’ve received that makes this point.



I’m an Aerospace Engineer working defense projects for the past 26 yrs. A bit of info, if you don’t mind.

A comet is an ice ball which travels a highly eccentric orbit around the sun. The orbit is the shape of a long, narrow ellipse. Kepler’s Laws and Newton’s math and physics dictate that the comet will be travelling fastest when it is closed to the sun (perihelion), and slowest when it is farthest from the sun (apehelion). Since all the most common comets travel well outside our solar system, the closer they get to us on their way to swinging around the sun, the faster they are travel as they approach us.

Obviously, the comment ” …  flying at top speed  …  ” isn’t quite correct. If it is within our solar system, it is close to attaining its top speed, which occurs at perihelion.

Yes, I thoroughly enjoy what I do, even tho it is probably very dry and boring to others.

But I’m not so buried in the subject that I can’t appreciate the humor in your Corner remark.

I apologize if you already knew all the Orbital Mechanics 101 stuff.



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