What makes the even important for the earthlings is that if the comet, presently 386 million miles from the Sun, slightly closer to the Sun than the planet Jupiter, manages to survive the encounter with the sun, and then it might be visible even in daylight from Earth’s by the end of the year.
Comets become more active as they near the inner solar system, where the Sun’s heat evaporates their ices into jets of gases and dust. But even at this great distance ISON is already active, with a strong jet blasting dust particles off its nucleus. As these dust particles shimmer in reflected sunlight, a portion of the comet’s tail becomes visible in the Hubble image
Based on the preliminary measurements taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, has indicated that the Comet ISON’s body is no more than 4 miles or 6.4 km in diameter. The Comet ISON, officially named as C/2012 S1 (ISON) was discovered in September 2012 by Russian amateur astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok. It was named after the telescope that made its discovery, the International Scientific Optical Network, or ISON.
According to William Cooke, lead scientist at Nasa’s Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, as per the observations made by the Nasa’s Swift telescope show, the that is shedding dust from its nucleus at a rate of more than 112,000 pounds (50,802 kg) per minute due to heating by the sun, is about to reach the outer edge of the asteroid belt, located some 280 million miles (451 million km) from Earth. It is also worth mentioning that the comet’s nucleus will continue to shrink as it flies closer toward the sun and heats up.
The comet, termed as a “dirty snowball” comprising of a clump of frozen gases mixed with dust, is expected to break up completely before it gets as close as 700,000 miles (1.1 million km) from the sun’s surface on Nov. 28. It may be recalled that in 1970, a comet passed 10 times farther away than that and got partly disintegrated. “I doubt this thing is going to survive. I guess we won’t know for sure until we look for it to come out from behind the sun,” said the scientist.
However, Comet ISON’s has proved to be quite informational for the astronomers as its pristine state will help them study the material that sublimates off the comet so as to gain insight into its composition.
In a statement, Jian-Yang Li of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., who led a team that imaged the comet said: “As a first-time visitor to the inner solar system, Comet C/ISON provides astronomers a rare opportunity to study a fresh comet preserved since the formation of the solar system. The expected high brightness of the comet as it nears the sun allows for many important measurements that are impossible for most other fresh comets.”
Meanwhile, to ensure a regular input regarding the developments made by the comet and to track its movement, NASA has organized a Comet ISON Observing Campaign to coordinate the efforts of observatories on the ground and in space. Hubble is seen as a key player in this campaign, along with a number of other instruments. In fact, the latest photographs of the comet were taken just two weeks before the telescope’s 23rd anniversary. - nvonews
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