Sun Kissed ISON: Dead or Not

Sun did or did not destroy comet

Once thought to be destroyed, there is a glimmer of hope that our icy comet friend ISON may not be dead when the Sun kissed it yesterday.  New Images that came out this morning show that ISON survived its scorching trip.   According to a tweet from NASA, it seems that the comet is taking the predicted slingshot right on by as well.

There was much debate on whether ISON was stable enough to endure such a trip passed the sun, but it also gave us an incredible amount of data to use from the sun’s magnetic activity and how comets may react when coming so close to sizzling up from our sun.  The biggest issue scientists had in determining whether the comet died or lived was due to the fact they were unable to see it with the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).  The NASA spacecraft SDO was launched back in 2010, and has been watching our sun 24/7 while obtaining atmospheric data and imagery we have never witnessed before.

As scientists were monitoring the data from the SDO, ISON just disappeared out of sight.  They have seen comets ten times smaller pass through the sun’s atmosphere, so due to these last experiences scientists thought they would be able to see it for sure.  When they couldn’t observe the comet anymore they just decided ISON had been destroyed.

Then all of a sudden, the comet was present again on the other side of the sling shot path of the sun.  Scientists just sat there dumbfounded and asking each other as to what happened.  Is there something special about the makeup of that comet that kept it from being disintegrated?  Why couldn’t they pick up the comet with the SDO?

The past two comets went by the sun at a much closer distance, but ISON was further away and seemed to be in a different magnetic area of the sun than were the others were located.  The light that is given off of a comet is from gases, that is what the SDO tracks.  The light spectrum will not be seen with the equipment if there isn’t enough oxygen and iron to burn off and start glowing.

Even the European Space Agency (ESA) was one of the first organizations to declare ISON dead, and then had to recalculate things when they seen some part of the comet may have actually survived the scorching.  They think part of the nucleus may have survived, but how much of the ice chunk survived is still hard to determine.  Researchers said they need a couple of days to re-assess the data and images they have.

So researchers proclaim that over the next few days to weeks they hopefully will be able to determine what ISON is made of and what it will possibly do next.  The next time we will be able to see the ISON comet will be on December 1st.  It will be very low in the sky in the early morning (closer to midnight) and be more visible.  With every passing day ISON will be seen much higher in the sky.  Around December 17th, ISON will be going up by the big dipper and would be more visible closer to midnight.

Note: Time is based on E.T.

By Tina Elliott

 

ABC News

USA Today

BBC News

 

 

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