ISON – Bye, Bye Bye


Oh comet ISON, you tried so hard; you refused to go down without a fight and sadly all you have to show for it is a rather messy dust cloud. Cheer up – you did your best, and I for one wasn’t disappointed. Still smarting over the fact my sister laid eyes on you and I never had that chance hurts, but I’m optimistic your fading glory might still cross my path in December.

NASA scientists now describe what’s left of ISON as a “fading ghost”. R.I.P ISON.

Don’t take it personally ISON, you’re not the only kid in space. Instead of sulking over your demise I’m looking for a replacement before you’ve even left the stage. As of today, 1440 PHA’s (potentially hazardous asteroids) lurk within 100 LD (lunar distance) from earth. Some of them game changers, such as the almost 2 Km. wide asteroid passing within 18 LD (one LD equals the distance from earth to the moon) on Jan. 21 – massive, but harmless – much too far away. The closest any of these PHA’s will come is the 5 metre chunk that passed within .4 LD yesterday. Hardly worth giving you the hook dusty ISON.

Solar winds have risen sharply; now almost 500 Km/second, coupled with two active “earth facing” sunspots – AR 1908 and 1907 barely make a ripple on my radar. Sorry earth facing sunspots; you’ll have to do better than a 25% chance of M-class flares if you want to replace ISON. Our sun, flipping magnetic polarity is pretty cool – even if it happens every 11 years or so At the very least worthy of a nod for jaw dropping auroras.

I’m partial to the Tycho supernova; witnessed by astronomer Tycho Brahe in 1572. For almost a year it shone as brightly in the night sky as Venus. Take that dusty, disintegrating ISON. Tycho blasted elements outward at an impressive 11 million miles an hour. No big deal, that’s what white dwarf stars do when they go supernova. The cool thing is that science now understands when Tycho went ballistic a shock wave or “sonic boom” of sorts went outwards at Mach 300, the wave collided with interstellar gases and created a reverse shock wave – one that turned back on Tycho at Mach 1000, heating gases and making them visible to astronomers as a glowing ball. Very cool; Tycho helped us understand supernovas – you just confused us ISON.

ISON; you thought dazzling us with a 16 million Km. tail would suffice – remarkable yes, but you have stiff competition. Asteroid P/2013 P5, discovered by pan-STARRS  on Sept. 10,  2013 , rotates like a sprinkler head with six distinct comet like tails radiating from the centre. This is jaw dropping ISON – science has never encountered this anomaly. You’re up against gamma ray bursts, black holes and star nebulas, “A” for effort ISON.

The universe is too full of wonder to keep you around; take heart – you had a good run, and I’ll miss you.

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.

Hey DA14, Meet Apophis


On Feb. 15, comet DA14 will come within 21,000 miles of earth. In cosmic terms; close enough to hear it whiz by. While not particularly large, at 150 odd feet, it could do considerable damage. Remember – a beach ball sized meteor could make a crater almost 20 feet deep and over 60 feet wide. There is no chance DA14 will collide with earth, at least not this time around.

Countless close calls populate our fragile existence. On April 13, 2029 Comet Apophis, at well over 500 feet; will come within a projected 19,400 miles of earth. This one is large enough to obliterate a major city In November of this year comet ISON;  not close  at 2 million miles, yet shining many times brighter than the full moon; will dazzle the naked eye.

I wish more of us pondered the cosmos. Governed by nothing but science; physics is the universal God. The United Nations itself, mandates that celestial bodies are for the benefit of all mankind Unfettered by politics, God, or back room handshakes; the universe is free to operate purely on science. No doubt the concept is lost on fundamentalists; the irony being that it could quite possibly be a space rock that bites us in the ass one day.

As we squabble like grade schoolers on the playground, squander our resources, and  throw tantrums over religious righteousness – a big ass space rock strikes me as poetic justice. Not a punishment from God; simply a cosmic spanking, unleashed when orbits eventually collide.