Pffft….Poof!

That is the sound I imagined as I was watching the live NASA event for the late comet ISON.  As I expected, the journey around the Sun destroyed most of ISON.

Unfortunately, not even the STEREO satellites got any good data of what actually happened.  At least that scientific data would have made the “comet of the century” worth more than the hype.

Once again comet ISON raises our hopes and then dashes then... perhaps for the final time. It has clearly started to fade dramatically, and this does not bode well for survival.  Image and caption via ESA/NASA, annotations by Karl Battams.

I have taken a lot of flack for predicting that the comet would either break up or be destroyed on its one and only journey through the solar system.  It appears that there may be some remnants of the comet left, but most of it is gone.

I wasn’t making a prediction out of spite for the hype, the math wasn’t adding up for me.  ISON’s revised orbit kept putting it closer and closer to the Sun.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/ef/Earth-Moon.png/800px-Earth-Moon.png

The final trajectory was about 3 lunar distances (less than 750,000 miles, the image above is to scale) from the largest, hottest, most active mass in the solar system.  Also, the composition of ISON was lighter and fluffier than some of the more solid core comets found.  As most of you may have had occasion to experience.  Putting something soft and fluffy into a microwave, such as a marshmallow, results in a spectacular mess.  That’s what essentially happened to ISON.

NASA currently believes that as Comet ISON plunged towards to the sun, it began to fall apart. Then, as ISON plunged through the corona (the plasma that surrounds the Sun), it continued to fall apart and vaporize, and lost its coma and tail completely just like Lovejoy did in 2011.  What emerged from the sun was a small nucleus, that has resumed emitting dust and gas for at least the time being.

Well, I think it is time to stick a fork in comet ISON, ‘cuse I think its done.  Whatever is left of ISON certainly isn’t going to win it the crown of “comet of the century.”

Cover image Pfffft by Phoenixthehedgehog16 www.deviantart.com

– 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 +

Norman

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