The Largest Object in the Solar System

By Anupum Pant

On November 6th 1892, after being spotted by a British astronomer Edwin Holmes, comet Holmes was not seen again for several decades. Thus it came to be known as the lost comet. Out of the blue, more than 70 years later, the comet was again seen in the year 1964.

Now it is known that comet Holmes was captured by Jupiter several thousand years ago, and it never went back to the Kuiper belt. It is a Jupiter family comet. Every 6.88 years, the comet orbits the sun.

Even this year, on 27th of March, it was one of the most bright comets of the year. But it was something that happened back in the year 2007 which made it one of the most popular comets in the sky.

For a brief period, comet Holmes, which is also a part of our solar system, became the largest object in the solar system. Yes, even larger than the sun!

On November 9th 2007, the diameter of comet’s coma – a cloudy region surrounding the comet made up of very tiny shiny ice and dust particles – measured about 1.4 million km. The sun’s diameter rounded to the nearest hundred is estimated to be 1.392 million km. Agreed the coma wasn’t as massive as the sun, but the size of it did measure slightly more than the sun at that time.

It indeed is a great achievement to become the largest object in the solar system (for some time) for an object that is just a tiny mass of ice and dust that is only about 3.6 km wide.

That day, the cloud around it erupted due to a mysterious outburst which still puzzles scientists. Such outbursts have been seen in the past too and are thought to have been originated as a result of its collision with a meteor (or probably due to an internal steam eruption).

via [space]

A Massive 3200 Year Old Tree in a Single Picture

By Anupum Pant

If there’s one place I’d like to visit, it is the part of California where you find giant sequoia trees. The Giant forest is one such grove in the western Sierra Nevada of California. It is home to five of the ten most massive trees on the planet.

With a tree trunk measuring 36.5 feet in diameter, the Giant Sherman in the Giant forest grove, is the largest of the trees in this grove. It is 275 feet tall! (and yet there are taller trees in existence – Hyperion – again in California, which is about 379 feet tall)

While the President tree, 3200 years old, is another one of these Giant sequoia. It has seen hundred generations of humans pass by. Throughout its life it has survived a number of storms, fires, winters, earthquakes, and climate changes. And even today it grows faster than most other trees on the planet, adding one cubic meter of wood every year.

Its trunk measures around 27 feet in diameter.  In height, its topmost point measuring at 247 feet, is slightly shorter than the Giant Sherman. Still, the tree is massive. Its huge branches hold about 2 billion needles (leaves), which is more than any other tree on earth.

It is so huge that until recently it hadn’t been captured in a single photograph (excluding satellite shots and other such smart ideas). A team from National geographic magazine joined scientists to study and photograph the tree.

the president tree

World’s Largest Building Has a Climate of Its Own

By Anupum Pant

A place where planes like the Boeing 747, 767, 777 and 787 are built, has to be huge. But this Boeing factory in Everett, Washington, home to 30,000 workers (working in 3 shifts), is so huge that the inside of the building has a climate of its own. It is the largest building on Earth. If you get a chance, you must not drop a chance to take the 90-minute tour of this factory (it costs $15 per adult). Here are a few things to note about it…

The size: The volume of this factory is 472 million cubic feet or 13.3 million cubic meters. That is enough to fit the whole Disney land and still be left with a 12 acre place to park the vehicles. In other words, it could fit 800 standard sized hockey rinks. Or it could fit in 75 football fields. Or it can hold about 12 empire state buildings! You get an idea how huge it is, right?

Largest Digital Mural: Being huge comes with its own side effects – another world record. The doors, like the building, are huge too. The factory has 6 doors, where each of them is 82 feet in height and 300-350 feet in width! You could bring in an NFL field (as in, fit the length of it) in through one of these. But what is more interesting about these doors is that they are covered with a 100,000 square feet of digital graphic. This is the largest digital mural in the world – printed by SuperGraphics, Seattle. It took the workers 27 days to install the digital mural.

Small City: Had this place been slightly larger, it could have had enough space to fit in a country – The Vatican city. Still, it isn’t small. The building is like a small city with it’s own fire department, security force, fully equipped medical clinic, electrical substations and water treatment plant. To move around in this little city, the employees use 1,300 bicycles.

Its own Climate? Now, since it is like a small city, it has to have its own climate, right? Yes. When the building was first built, clouds got formed inside and some say it even rained inside (mostly, not true). But rainbows have definitely been seen inside.
The temperature inside the building is controlled by those 1 million bulbs that are used in there. During winters, the bulbs bring warmth and during summers the doors are opened and air circulating fans are switched on to let the fresh Everett breeze come in.

Bonus fact: The network of 26 overhead cranes have about a total of 39 miles of ceiling rails inside the factory!