Although most of the US Government is shutdown, the robotic telescopes (unlike the drones in Washington) kept on working.
The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft captured images of two small comets plunging into the Sun in the past couple of days. Neither of the comets was very large, only about 33 feet in diameter according to estimates. But could the same fate await ISON?
As ISON approaches the Sun, and gets brighter (I am going to image it again this weekend), we will know more about its trajectory. That will let us know whether or not it will pass harmlessly by the Sun, or plunge to its demise like these two unfortunate lumps of ice and dust.
Early estimates had ISON passing about 850,000 miles from the Sun. However, the most recent estimates are that it will pass within 730,000 miles (1.2 million km) of the Sun’s surface around November 28. At first that would seem to be a good safe distance, but the Sun is at about solar maximum right now a who knows? A big flare, a coronal mass ejection and it could be all over for poor ISON.
No matter what, it appears that this is a one time trip for ISON. Its trajectory has it leaving the system, never to return. If you want to see the coolest, model of ISON go here. The also have other fantastic interactive models. If you are a teach, this is one resource you should check out.
Right now ISON has been kind of a dud (still fun to watch and images, but meh). Personally, since this really isn’t the “comet of the decade,” that everyone originally thought, I am hoping for something to happen so that science can find out something new. Break apart, fall into the Sun…something…anything. This is your one chance to be spectacular! Don’t blow it! Oh, if I only controlled the cosmic coincidence department.
– Ex astris, scientia –
I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +