QUESTION TEXT: When astronomers observed the cornet Schwassman-Wachmann…
QUESTION TYPE: Paradox
PARADOX: The astronomers couldn’t see the comet breaking into pieces until 2 months after seeing the bright lights that showed it had broken into pieces.
ANALYSIS: We need to explain why the astronomers saw light before the comet broke up. There’s nothing in the stimulus that provides an obvious answer. Instead, you have to consider each answer choice and ask how it affects the stimulus.
The correct answer tells us that the break of the comet occurs only after it starts releasing the dust that causes increased brightness.
- This is even more confusing, because it means the comet broke up even before it grew brighter. When it light up we ought to have seen it was broken.
- This explains why comets light up but it doesn’t explain why we couldn’t observe the breakup.
- CORRECT. This shows that gas and dust can start increasing the comet’s light even before it breaks up. This explains the delay between the light and the breakup.
- This makes it even stranger that the breakup wasn’t observed. The comet became easier to see.
- This explains why the comet broke but it doesn’t explain why we didn’t see it.
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