The November meeting proved most educational and entertaining. After our usual look at the comings and goings in the heavens, society news and business etc, our attention turned to the more exotic and intoxicating. Andi had prepared a presentation on Comets, to commemorate the 1st year anniversary of Philea landing on comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P).

Comet building in progress.  Lots more pictures in the Gallery.

In particular Andi thought it would be informative and fun to make a comet in the classroom using ingredients that are now known to be found in comets. He had furnished everyone with a bucket, a bag, gloves and then the ingredients:

  • Cinders from an open fire, and sand from the beach (representing carbon and silicates which form much of a comet's core)
  • Lighter gas, representing simple hydrocarbons (methane, methane, propane, butane, etc)
  • Scotch Whisky - single malt, no less! (representing alcohols: methanol, ethanol "the drinking alcohol" found on Comet Lovejoy, propanol and butanol)
  • Smelly Ammonia and Formaldehyde (although the latter being a carcenogenic, among its other attributes, we used a homeopathic substitute!)
  • Nail varnish remover (which is 'Acetone') courtesy of Mark's wife)
  • Salt (sodium was found in Hale Bopp's tail)
  • Sugar (representing Glycolaldehyde, a simple sugar found on Comet Lovejoy)

... and then the frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice) was added and the class was filled with ‘ smoking bags’ all being squished and moulded into various shapes. It was like a scene from a Hogwarts witch’s home brew class.  But what a transformation! Comets!  They actually looked like miniatures of the real thing: dirty snowballs of various constituents. It was a fantastic demonstration of how these building blocks come together. We all thought it magnificent; Andi had clearly put a great deal of effort in it.

So, November: comets; December ...? Black Holes? Who knows, but there’s only one way to find out – Dec 1st hope to see you.