Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, September 14, 2013

MVNews this week:  Page B:3


The World Around Us

 Mountain Views News Saturday, September 14, 2013 


Things are not always what they seem—especially in 
space. For 30 years, a large near-Earth object called 
“Don Quixote” was believed to be an asteroid. Now, an 
international team of astronomers and planetary scientists 
has discovered it is actually a comet.

 Called 3552 Don Quixote, the body is the third-largest 
near-Earth object (an asteroid or similar body orbiting 
the Sun in the vicinity of Earth). About 5 percent of near-
Earth objects are thought to be “dead” comets that have 
shed all the water and carbon dioxide in the form of ice 
that give them their coma—a cloud surrounding the comet 
nucleus—and tail.

 The team found that Don Quixote is neither. It is, in 
fact, an active comet, thus likely containing water ice and 
not just rocks. The finding, presented at the European 
Planetary Science Congress 2013 [http://www.epsc2013.
eu] in London Sept. 10, could hold implications for the 
origin of water on Earth.

 “Don Quixote has always been recognized as an 
oddball,” said team member Joshua Emery, assistant 
professor of Earth and planetary sciences at the University 
of Tennessee, Knoxville. “Its orbit brings it close to Earth, 
but also takes it way out past Jupiter. Such a vast orbit is 
similar to a comet’s, not an asteroid’s, which tend to be 
more circular—so people thought it was one that had shed 
all its ice deposits.”

 Using the Spitzer Space Telescope, the team reexamined 
images of Don Quixote from 2009 when it was in the part 
of its orbit closest to the Sun, and found it actually did have 
a coma and a faint tail.

 “The power of the Spitzer telescope allowed us to spot 
the coma and tail, which was not possible using optical 
telescopes on the ground,” said Emery. “We now think this body contains a lot of ice—including carbon 
dioxide and/or carbon monoxide ice—rather than just being rocky.”

 This discovery implies that carbon dioxide and water ice might be present within other near-Earth 
asteroids, as well. It also may have implications for the origins of water on Earth as comets may be 
the source of at least some of it, and the amount on Don Quixote represents about 100 billion tons of 
water—roughly the same amount that’s in Lake Tahoe.

 FIRE AND ICE are the two opposites that meet when an icy comet approaches the Sun. The result 
can be a spectacular tail, as when Comet Halley approached us in 1910, or just an unheard sizzle, when 
all of a comet’s ice melts away on a too-close approach to the Sun. Comets are always unpredictable 
objects—comet discoverer David Levy likened them to cats, “because they have tails and they do what 
they want.”

 “Fire and Ice” is also the title of my all-time favorite book on comets. Published in 1985 and still 
available from Amazon (authored by Roberta J.M. Olson and subtitled “A History of Comets in Art”), 
it holds a treasury of paintings, drawings, and descriptions of all the great comets that have stirred 
the imagination of mankind. Looking ahead to the holidays, the book would make a great gift to 
accompany the approach of Christmas comet ISON, which we hope will still brighten and become 
spectacular at that time.

 You can contact Bob Eklund at:


(StatePoint) Recycling is crucial to running a 
green home. It’s also an easy and effective way 
to reduce your weekly contribution to the local 

Unfortunately, many people either aren’t recycling 
as much as they could be, or are recycling the 
wrong way. A main reason for this is lack of access 
to accurate information.

Even if you know the basics, you may have lingering 
questions. Covanta, a world leader and expert 
in sustainable waste management and renewable 
energy, offers helpful insights into common recycling 

• What cardboard is recyclable? All cardboard 
boxes except waxed can be recycled. In some 
communities, cardboard includes cereal, pasta or 
other food boxes. If possible, remove adhesive labels 
and tape prior to placing it in the recycling 
bin, as glue can interfere with the pulping process. 
Recycle the non-greasy portion of pizza boxes and 
discard the rest with the trash.

• Is wet newspaper recyclable? Paper fibers can 
only hold so much moisture. If wet paper arrives 
at the recycling facility, it may not absorb the 
chemicals needed to process the paper fibers into 
new products. Try to keep recycle-ready paper indoors 
until pick-up day.

• Should you remove plastic bottle caps and wine 
corks? Corks should be reused or thrown in the 
trash. Remove plastic caps so you can crush the 
plastic bottles, making it easy to fit more into the 
bin. Some caps are recyclable, but recycling centers 
often discard non-recyclable caps as trash.

• Can you recycle items that contained chemicals? 
Yes, as long as they’re completely empty. An exception 
is motor oil, because residual oil can interfere 
with plastics recycling. 

• Is crushing cans necessary? It’s not necessary to 
crush cans in preparation for recycling, but doing 
so makes room in your recycling bin and the 
transport truck, which means fewer trips to the 
recycling facility.

• How do you recycle batteries and electronics? 
Many municipalities are now recycling electronics. 
And some department stores, such as Best 
Buy, have take-back programs. Visit www.Call2Recycle.
org to find your nearest battery take-
back location.

• Where do recyclables go? 
After curbside pick-up, recyclables 
go to an interim 
processor called a Materials 
Recovery Facility. 
There, they are sorted by 
machine and by hand using 
a conveyor belt. Separated 
recyclables are sent 
to a processing plant to be 
made into new products.

• Why recycle? Recycling 
preserves natural resources 
and is good for the economy, 
accounting for about 
one million manufacturing 
jobs nationwide, and 
generating more than $100 billion in revenue, according 
to the Environmental Protection Agency.

• What happens to waste that’s not recycled? 
While some materials may be sent to landfills, the 
preferred option is an Energy-from-Waste facility, 
which offers a safe, technologically advanced 
means of waste disposal that generates clean, 
renewable energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions 
and recycles metal left over in household 
waste. More information about how recycling and 
Energy-from-Waste go together can be found at

Environmental stewardship starts at home. 
We must all take steps to educate ourselves on