Holy Crap ISON – Some Of You Made It!


Last night I wrote that ISON was the little engine that could. Holy crap ISON – I thought I would have to eat my words today but you refuse to give up. ISON won’t live up to the billing of “comet of the century”, yet it seems at least some of the nucleus survived the sun’s atmosphere. Scientists don’t expect what’s left to be as bright as comet Lovejoy in 2011, that said – ISON is most likely going to be visible in the eastern skies come Dec. 2 0r 3rd. Good job ISON.

ISON – To Be or Not to Be ?


Comet ISON isn’t going down without a fight. Early reports had scientists preparing for her funeral; now the word seems to be – not so fast!

ison-peri-11-28-2013-580

Watch ISON’s trajectory; something clearly survived the sun’s atmosphere. Not fully intact; fingers are crossed at least some of the nucleus escaped. ISON is like the little engine that could – this evening it is reported to be getting brighter. Hidden for the moment by the sun’t glare, it will be a few days before SOHO (Solar Dynamics Observatory) sorts it all out.

Had ISON managed to escape our sun unscathed, it could have reached a magnitude of brightness high enough to be seen in broad daylight with the naked eye. While hopes of that phenomenon may have been dashed; optimism gives ISON a fairly good chance of being visible away from city lights in early December.

Follow ISON at earthsky.

http://earthsky.org/

Sister ISON Encounter


I am so jealous; as green with envy as ISON appeared to my sister this morning. It just isn’t fair – I’m the space weather fanatic, and she’s the one who catches a glimpse of ISON.

Early this morning she left Battleford for Saskatoon. Moments after hitting highway 16, listening happily to talk radio, a “large furry brown ass” assaults the front end of her car. Luckily instinct kicked in; slamming her brakes hard, skidding to a stop at the side of the road. The deer shook it off; much less fazed than my gob smacked sister. Completely un-nerved, she gathered herself for a minute before stepping out to inspect the damage. As she quivered, talk radio guy gushed about comet ISON on the eastern horizon.

I expressed relief that her car wasn’t damaged too badly. Then I made her describe exactly how she encountered ISON. Like a child wanting to hear a story over and over again, I had her explain exactly where she was standing, what time it was, how the sky looked and what her reaction was.

Her description left my breathless, not only could I picture the morning, I could smell the air and feel the chill of early morning frost. Not a cloud in the sky; a tangerine glow rolled out in anticipation of the rising sun. Ice fog reluctantly releasing its grip; tipping its hat to the approaching sun, pleased with itself for coating every last blade of grass with ice crystals. Sorry it wouldn’t have a chance to marvel as sunlight bounced off ice fog’s creation. Not a hint of wind; by all accounts wind stepped aside – so glorious was the imminent sunrise.

The voice on the radio sent her gaze to the eastern sky – that’s when she saw it, ISON appeared as a greenish blob on the horizon. Her reaction warmed my heart – she swears she did a happy dance around the car in my honour. She gushed about Saskatoon radio guy and his enthusiasm for all things space. Radio guy apparently reports space weather every day before sunrise; he tells listeners exactly where and at what time to look for ISON depending on which road you happen to be driving. I practically jumped out of my skin – hats off to you radio guy, you just made my day.

I don’t hold much optimism that ISON will survive an encounter with the sun’s atmosphere on Nov. 28. Yesterday many believed the nucleus had broken apart; today paints a brighter picture – new images seem to show it still intact. Time will tell – in a few days we’re in for another cosmic let down, or on the off chance ISON escapes the sun’s atmosphere intact – a celestial show of epic proportions.

While I wait – I can’t help but feel envious my sister hit a deer this morning. If not for that deer and Saskatoon radio guy – she never would have laid eyes on comet ISON.


Credits: This movie was made by reader Rob Matson using data from STEREO-A.

Nice Tail ISON


Comet ISON has been busy; now just visible to the naked eye, it sports a 16 million KM. tail. Science is scratching it’s head, the jury is out as to what ISON is up to. Something happened on Nov. 13/14, it might have been the nucleus fragmenting or maybe just sizzle and cosmic ice splutters as it approaches the sun.  On Nov. 21 ISON will be within the range of NASA’s STEREO HI-1A, astronomers fingers are crossed for views offering a little insight. Nov.28 will prove interesting – ISON’s tip will enter the sun’s atmosphere; many believe this will herald ISON’s demise.

Despite all the fizzle and fuss, most scientists believe ISON is still intact. Known as a “sun grazer” comet for it’s upcoming appointment with solar atmosphere, if ISON manages to survive, December skies will positively glow with ISON theatrics.

ISON photographed by Michael Jager on Nov. 17, Ebenwaldohe, Austria

The absolute best link to ISON’s timeline, courtesy NASA….

http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/timeline-of-comet-ison-s-dangerous-journey/#.UoxjCdKTjMM

For those who can’t live without “real time” updates; spaceweather’s Real Time Comet Gallery….

http://spaceweathergallery.com/index.php?title=ison

Will ISON Boom or Bust?


Comet ISON was discovered in 2012 by Russian scientists Vital Nevski and Artyom Novichonak; named ISON for their International Scientific Optical Network, ISON juries still deliberate if it will be a boom or bust. On November 28, 2013 the comet dubbed “dirty snowball” will pass within a million kilometres of the sun’s surface. If it survives, ISON will rival any comet event witnessed by mankind. With a brightness magnitude greater than the moon, ISON would blaze across the night sky as one of the most bad ass comets we’ve laid eyes on.

For ISON to prove bad ass it has to survive solar tides and radiation. In 2011 comet Lovejoy survived a brush with the sun, though much smaller than ISON – Lovejoy’s tail lit up the night sky for weeks. At least twice the size of Lovejoy and passing the sun at a greater distance, fingers are crossed for the “comet of the century”.

(Credit: HubbleSite.org/Go/ISON).

A composite image of Comet ISON as seen from the Hubble Space Telescope on April 30th, 2013. (Credit: HubbleSite.org/Go/ISON).

Read more: http://www.universetoday.com/104818/comet-ison-a-viewing-guide-from-now-to-perihelion/#ixzz2fnkHss1R

As far as I’m concerned – we need a gob smacking, jaw dropping cosmic event to humble our over inflated egos. Nothing like a good dose of universal bad ass to put life in perspective.

Halley’s Aquarids


Halley’s Comet last visited earth in 1986; far beyond the orbit of Uranus, it won’t be back until 2061. Halley laps the solar system approximately every 76 years – though light years away, it leaves behind a trail of cosmic dust. Twice a year our orbit passes this dust trail  – in May the Aquarid meteors and in October the Orionids.

The Aquarids – named for their origin in the Aquarius constellation – peak tonight and tomorrow. The southern hemisphere has the best seats for this show with over 50 meteors an hour hitting the atmosphere at 66 Km/second. Northern hemisphere viewers can still see show, even though it’s hampered by Aquarius barely rising above the horizon.

http://spaceweather.com/meteors/etaaquarids/etaaquarids.html

Photo by David Kingham – taken tonight at Devils Tower

http://500px.com/photo/33142555

C2013 A1 -AKA – Siding Spring


Comet C2013 A1 was discovered on January 3, 2013 by Robert McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory. Believed to have been thrown from the Oort cloud; this one is poised to give Mars a little trouble. On October 29, 2014 estimates place it within 37,000 Km. from the surface of Mars.

A lot can happen to this projection in the next year. This isn’t a single asteroid, rather a massive comet with a nucleus estimated anywhere from 15 to 50 Km, and a tail up to 100,000 Km. This tail isn’t just along for the ride; it’s made up of smaller rubble and frozen gasses – often with a mind of their own. C2013 A1 is passing close enough to the Sun at the moment to melt some of these frozen gasses, sending them hurtling into space. Often this action is enough to change the course of a comet, though best guesses  are placing money on a close call rather than a direct hit.

Mars may be spared an impact estimated at 25 million times more powerful than a nuclear bomb – it has no chance of escaping the massive tail. Without question it will be spanked by unknown quantities of space junk.

There is no chance that Earth will be in harms way. At least not this time around.

There's a chance, albeit slim, that a comet upwards of 50km wide could slam into Mars in 2014.

AFP/Getty ImagesThere’s a chance, albeit slim, that a comet upwards of 50km wide could slam into Mars in 2014.