Thursday, November 28, 2013

ISON Comet hits Perihelion

from NASA
Today, November 28, 2013, Thanksgiving Day, Comet ISON will sling shot around the sun. The comet was first spotted by astronomers when it was 585 million miles away in September 2012. The comet created in the Oort cloud, began it journey to the sun over a million years ago and almost a light year away. According to NASA the ISON is made of pristine matter from the earliest days of the solar system's formation, its top layers never having been lost by a trip near the sun.

Since its first discovery of ISON, NASA has used its vast fleet of space-based and Earth-based telescopes to learn more about this comet which is believed to be a time capsule from when the solar system first formed. Today the comet’s inward journey through the solar system will end as it slingshots around the sun-- either to break up in the intense heat and gravity of the sun, or to survive perihelion intact, and slingshot out, never to return.

NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, will be the only observatory able to see the comet transit across the face of the sun. Other observatories around the world will be watching at the comet passes through their field of view. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, will view the comet for a few hours during its closest approach to the sun- perihelion. The X-Ray Telescope on the JAXA/NASA Hinode mission will also be looking at Comet ISON for about 55 minutes during perihelion. Check this link for the latest pictures if you want to escape family togetherness. I will be in my kitchen, But NASA is broadcasting the slingshot around the sun in December when I will be watching...


While the fate of the comet was not confirmed on Friday, it is likely that it did not survive the slingshot around the sun. NASA reports that the comet grew faint while within both the view of NASA's STEREO, and the joint European Space Agency and NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. The comet was not visible at all in NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Sadly,  this means that Comet ISON will not be visible in the night sky in December.  NASA believes that the observations gathered of the comet over the last year will provide some further areas of research.  

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