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Futomara's avatar

The sun and celestial body impact?

Asked by Futomara (420points) December 28th, 2009

We’ve witnessed celestial body impacts on planetary bodies in our solar system as evidenced by craters as well as direct observation as in the case of the Shoemaker-Levy impact on Jupiter. In fact, Jupiter is considered to be a vacuum cleaner of sorts in that it’s gravity is sufficiently strong enough to prevent many more impacts from occurring in the inner solar system. Obviously, the gravity of the sun is the strongest in the solar system. And the sun isn’t immune to impacts.

Does the sun’s luminosity prevent impacts from being observed? Could impacts be the source of sun spots or other solar phenomena? What research has been done in this area and where can I find it?

I’ve never heard of the effect impacts have on the sun. There must have been amazing solar impacts during the accretion of the solar system. In considering the theory of the creation of the moon, a planet about the size of Mars, Thera, impacted with the Earth. Certainly, planets must have impacted with the sun during the early formation of the solar system. It’s obvious there is no record of these impacts, but, there are still other impacts occurring in the solar system, and certainly with the sun.

I’d love to hear the thoughts of others in this area.

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13 Answers

Harp's avatar

Here is a video file of two comets colliding with the sun and the aftermath of the collision.

Pazza's avatar

@Harp – I can’t get that to play, it says no video?

@Futomara – I was going to say that I would have thought that meteors and most of the debris left over from the formation of the solar system would probably burn up and vapourise before it got to the sun, till I saw Harp’s link, but I can’t get it to work.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I can’t imagine what kinds of impacts would be required on a planet (or star) with the mass of the Sun to register. The closest analogy I can think of is, “What do you think would happen if you threw a basketball into a forest fire?”

Not much in any case, I suppose, and nothing that you could observe unless you were pretty damn close to the basketball.

Harp's avatar

@Pazza Hmm…. go here and try any of the “SOHO LASCO” clips. They open with Quicktime for me.

Pazza's avatar

I’m using firefox, it doesn’t seem to want to play them, so I went into MS internet explorer and it works now. cheers.

Snarp's avatar

As to the cause of sunspots, here is a simplified explanation of sunspots from this site

“When the Sun’s magnetic field is at its strongest, we see lots of sunspots, which are areas on the surface of the Sun where the local magnetic field lines constrain the movement of the Sun’s gas. The gas cools and dims, looking dark against the hotter gas. Normally, convection (like boiling water) would drag the cooler material down into the Sun’s interior, but the magnetic field prevents that, so sunspots can persist for days or weeks.”

Futomara's avatar

@Harp – Amazing clips! Do you have more information about that clip? How big were the comets? They must have been massive. Assuming the solar flare was the result of the impacts, absolutely incredible! How far out did the flare extend? It appears to be several sun diameters. (I can only imagine the havoc that would create to electronics on Earth if it was directed at us.)

Futomara's avatar

@Snarp – I understand what sun spots are. But what causes the solar polar magnetic shift? You see, my reasoning is that, for example, every year we can witness the Perseid meteor showers, meaning there is a cycle to the event. So I was wondering if there could be a cycle of solar impacts that could influence the generation of sun spots.

Snarp's avatar

@Futomara That seems pretty unlikely to me.

Harp's avatar

@Futomara The impacts were on June 1 & 2, 1998. The ejection also happened on June 2, but there’s actually no cause to believe that it was directly related to the impacts. Could have just been coincidence.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Even a planetary sized object should have little effect on the sun on impact. The relative sizes and heat involved minimize effects.

mattbrowne's avatar

The conservation of angular momentum explains the angular acceleration of an ice skater as she brings her arms and legs close to the vertical axis of rotation.

Something similar happened during the formation of the solar system with the collapsing cloud of gas and dust. Thanks to their kinetic energy most comets and asteroid do not get pulled into the sun even when their orbits are highly elliptical. Long-period comets have highly eccentric orbits for example. But they can collide with each other. When this happens orbits do change and sometimes this also sets them on a collision course with the sun, as shown in @Harp‘s videos.

There’s also some speculation whether passing stars can upset the comets in the Oort cloud changing their orbits around the sun.

UzZiBiKeR's avatar

Comets, comets ,comets!
There are thousands of sungrazing comets that weren’t able to be seen until SOHO, STEREO and other sun study satellites were launched. The sun absorbs countless comets. There is no scientific record of any problem with the sun when a comet strikes it.

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