Free Newsletters - Space News - Defense Alert - Environment Report - Energy Monitor
. 24/7 Space News .




IRON AND ICE
Comet of the Century?
by Dr. Tony Phillips for NASA Science News
Huntsville AL (SPX) Jan 21, 2013


A new ScienceCast video explores what could happen to Comet ISON as it approaches the sun in Nov. 2013. Possibilities range from "Comet of the Century" to "disintegrated dud."

Out near the orbit of Jupiter, a faint speck of light is moving through the black of space. At first glance it doesn't look like much, no brighter than a thousand distant stars speckling the velvet sky behind it; indeed, it takes a big telescope make out that it is a comet. But what a comet it could turn out to be...

Later this year, "Comet ISON" could blossom into a striking naked eye object visible even in broad daylight.

"Comet ISON is a sungrazer," explains Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab. "The orbit of the comet will bring it very close to the sun, which we know can be a spectacular thing."

Russian astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok found the comet in Sept. 2012. It bears the name of their night-sky survey program, the International Scientific Optical Network.

As 2013 unfolds, the comet is still very far away-near the orbit of Jupiter. That's why it looks like a speck. "But for an object at such extreme distance, it is actually very bright," says Battams. The comet's glow suggests that is spewing gas and dust from a fairly large nucleus-"in the 1 to 10 km range," estimates Matthew Knight of the Lowell Observatory.

On Nov. 28, 2013, this "dirty snowball" will fly through the sun's atmosphere little more than a million km from the stellar surface. If the comet survives--a big IF--it could emerge glowing as brightly as the Moon, briefly visible near the sun in broad daylight. The comet's dusty tail stretching into the night sky could create a worldwide sensation.

Some reporters have started calling ISON the "Comet of the Century," but Don Yeomans of NASA Near-Earth Object Program thinks that's premature.

"I'm old enough to remember the last 'Comet of the Century'," he says. In 1973, a distant comet named Kohoutek looked like it would put on a great show, much like ISON. The actual apparition was such a let-down that Johnny Carson made jokes about it on the Tonight Show. "It fizzled," says Yeomans. "Comets are notoriously unpredictable."

"Comet ISON has the potential to live up to the hype, but it also has the potential to do nothing," agrees Battams.

One hazard is the sun. Tidal forces and solar radiation have been known to destroy comets. A recent example is Comet Elenin, which broke apart and dissipated in 2011 as it approached the sun. Elenin, however, was a much smaller comet.

A better comparison, perhaps, is Comet Lovejoy, which flew through the sun's atmosphere in 2011. Lovejoy emerged intact and wowed observers with a garish tail for weeks.

"Comet ISON is probably at least twice as big as Comet Lovejoy and will pass a bit farther from the sun's surface" notes Knight. "This would seem to favor Comet ISON surviving and ultimately putting on a good show.

One of the most exciting possibilities would be a partial break-up. "If Comet ISON splits, it might appear as a 'string of pearls' when viewed through a telescope," speculates Battams. "It might even resemble the famous Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 that hit Jupiter in 1994."

A break-up would pose no threat to Earth, assures Yeomans. "Comet ISON is not on a collision course. If it breaks up, the fragments would continue along the same safe trajectory as the original comet."

Whatever happens, northern sky watchers will get a good view. For months after it swings by the sun, Comet ISON will be well placed for observers in the northern hemisphere. It will pass almost directly over the North Pole, making it a circumpolar object visible all night long.

.


Related Links
NASA Science News
Asteroid and Comet Mission News, Science and Technology






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





IRON AND ICE
Russian astronomers discover new huge comet
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Jan 14, 2013
Last year, Russian astronomers Vitaly Nevsky and Artyom Novichonok discovered a new gigantic comet that is currently approaching Earth. The ISON comet, which is expected to become brighter than the full moon, will be visible to the naked eye by late 2013. The astronomers say that given the comet's unique orbit, its origin may be the Oort Cloud, a cluster of frozen rocks and ices surroundin ... read more


IRON AND ICE
US, Europe team up for moon fly-by

Russia to Launch Lunar Mission in 2015

US, Europe team up for moon fly-by

Mission would drag asteroid to the moon

IRON AND ICE
US scientists find evidence of ancient Martian lake

Martian Crater May Once Have Held Groundwater-Fed Lake

Choosing the right people to go to Mars

ChemCam follows the 'Yellowknife Road' to Martian wet area

IRON AND ICE
An Astronaut's Guide

Mathematical breakthrough sets out rules for more effective teleportation

Orion Teamwork Pays Off

Unilever Buys 22 Flights On XCOR Lynx Suborbiter For AXE Campaign

IRON AND ICE
China to launch 20 spacecrafts in 2013

Mr Xi in Space

China plans manned space launch in 2013: state media

China to launch manned spacecraft

IRON AND ICE
ISS to get inflatable module

ESA workhorse to power NASA's Orion spacecraft

Competition Hopes To Fine Tune ISS Solar Array Shadowing

Embassy Gathers Elite Group of Space Policy Chiefs

IRON AND ICE
Suborbital Space Research and Education Conference Scheduled for June 2013

First Ariane 5 Launch For 2013 Ready With Two Birds

Africasat-1a to launch on first Ariane 5 launch in 2013

Roscosmos Releases Report On Proton Launch Anomaly

IRON AND ICE
Earth-size planets common in galaxy

NASA's Hubble Reveals Rogue Planetary Orbit For Fomalhaut B

NASA, ESA Telescopes Find Evidence for Asteroid Belt Around Vega

Kepler Gets a Little Help From Its Friends

IRON AND ICE
Record high radiation level found in fish: TEPCO

NASA Beams Mona Lisa to Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at the Moon

New surfaces repel most known liquids

Sustainable reinforcement for concrete has newly discovered benefits




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement