We might be in store for a spectacular sky show in December, that is, if Comet ISON survives its trip around the Sun on Thanksgiving. This comet has been called “the comet of the century” by some astronomers. Comet ISON was first discovered in 2012 and named for the international group of scientists working on the project, the International Scientific Optical Network. The comet has been showing a bright green head and riotous tail. But now some scientists are observing some problems with this comet.
Comets are giant snowballs of frozen gases, rock and dust that can be several miles in diameter. When they get near the sun, they warm up and spew out some of the gas and dirt, creating a tail that can stretch for thousands of miles. Most comets are in the outer part of our solar system but they do travel to inner parts of our solar system, including the sun. Some observers are noticing that the comet’s emissions are leveling off and the comet’s core could be disrupted.
Even though this comet could be breaking up. Don’t count out this comet just yet. Past comets have acted in an unpredictable way. So Comet ISON will have its own unpredictable moments. NASA scientists are giving ISON a 50/50 chance of surviving its trip around the sun on Thanksgiving. Even if the nucleus does break up, it may still give the public quite a sky show in early December with a long sweeping tail visible.
When Comet ISON has its close encounter with the sun on Thanksgiving Day, it will be flying right through the outer atmosphere of the sun, missing its searing surface by only 730,000 miles. That is a little less than only two and a half times the distance from Earth to the moon. NASA has a Google+ Hangout planned on Thanksgiving Day from 12:00-2:30 pm Central where they will watch and talk about the comet as it slingshots around the sun. Will the awesome gravity and energy of the sun break up this cosmic ball of ice and rock? Will it break up? Or will it pass the sun intact to put on a dazzling show in the December sky?
It’s the ultimate battle of fire and ice! Who will win, the sun or Comet? Hopefully the comet will win so we can enjoy a great nighttime show in December! And don’t believe those weird videos you see on YouTube saying Comet ISON will cause problems on Earth like blackouts and destruction, that will not happen! RSVP for the NASA Hangout at: https://plus.google.com/events/c8t7i5dbr1k50oq89giloiqe8rc
- Did the Comet ISON Just Disappear? (thewire.com)
- Prettiest Picture Yet of Comet Ison (blogs.discovermagazine.com)
- Icy comet’s close encounter with the sun comes Thanksgiving Day (kgw.com)
- Comet ISON may be in trouble (cnn.com)
- If Comet ISON Survives The Sun, The View May Be Spectacular (npr.org)
- An observer’s guide for watching Comet ISON’s light show in the sky (nbcnews.com)
Categories: Geeks and Nerds Stuff