Friday, 22 November 2013

Waiting For Comet Ison

Since it was discovered in 2012 there has been quiet confidence in the astronomical fraternity that Comet Ison will be one those those rare spectaculars in the heavens but there has always been a note of caution that it could be a damp squib.   
In just a few days time we will find out for ourselves as the Comet will announce itself to Earth on December 3rd, appearing on our eastern horizon and parading it's tail, all several millions of kilometres of it, during the whole of December for the billions of us in the Northern hemisphere to see.  
Or so we hope because there is just as much chance that Comet Ison will break up completely as the forces of our star get to work on the comet that has been on a 4.6 billion year journey through space.
The sticking point is that scientists know that previous Comets below 2 km were ripped apart by the immense gravitational pull of the Sun while Comets above 2km survived intact and Comet Ison is frustratingly estimated to be a fraction below the 2km borderline hence the scientists reluctance to confirm what we can expect to see, if anything.  
Comet Ison is currently hurtling towards the Sun and is set for its closest approach on 28 November after which date we will have a better idea if it has survived its encounter.

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