Wednesday, December 16, 2009 3:23 AM cstanton

Revealing Hidden Comet Strikes

 

We all know that the Earth has been hit by comets, but it is really hard to tell when, where, and how many that there have been. This makes it very hard to predict when the next big comet is going to come in.

Adrian Melott, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas, thinks that Comet impacts may happen more frequently than we think.


He has been leading a research team that will show potentially markable levels of nitrate and ammonia in ice cores that correspond to suspected impact sites. That way we can see the footsteps of the comet, even if the crater has been washed away by erosion.


Scientists have found that the Haber process would have taken place during a comet impact because of high pressure, the presence of hydrogen and nitrogen gas, and the comet itself acting as an enriched iron catalyst, all three things necessary for the ammonia producing process to take place.


Melott displays confidence in his findings, and thinks that the addition of ammonia to the list of things to look for will help uncover other potential impact sites to help accurately determine how often impacts happen to better be able to predict when the next one might be coming.


He does however understand that the results are ultimately inconclusive as the nitrate-ammonia signature will have more than likely been washed away by rain quickly after following a comet strike, but in areas with high pressure and plenty of water, the ammonia levels easily could have been enhanced quite a bit by the Haber process.

In the article at Science Daily he states the fact that it is a very real possibility that a comet could come into our solar system and we would only have a couple of years notice before it smashed our little blue planet into pieces. The only warning sign that we would have is the tail that it pops coming into the solar system. It seems like finding out that we're right on schedule to have a huge comet blow us into oblivion wouldn't really do much good. I say that we cut Melott's funding and just throw that all into the bank for the Intergalactic Comet Prevention System and find a real way to blow the comet up once we can see it. 

Even if we did know that a comet was going to hit us in lets say 8 years or something... What would we do? Project Manhattan our way out of it? 

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