Changing Planet

Ghost of Comet ISON Fading Fast

Fast fading Comet ISON (at upper right of frame) before it leaves view of SOHO satellite on Nov. 30. Credit: ESA/NASA/SOHO
Fast fading Comet ISON (at upper right of frame) before it leaves view of SOHO satellite on Nov. 30. THe white circle at center represents the sun’s position. Credit: ESA/NASA/SOHO

After initially appearing to revive after whipping around the sun on Thursday, Comet ISON has kept on providing space buffs with a real roller coaster ride. (Related: Comet ISON Barnstorms Sun)

But while hopes were raised that the comet might have been only been battered and bruised by its encounter with the sun, it now looks like it received a fatal blow. Only a headless dusty specter of the comet appears to remain.

Comet and solar scientists eagerly scanning images beamed back from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite on November 28th were disappointed to see that ISON seemed to go missing in action after the icy visitor passed within 683,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) of the surface of the sun. This left  astronomers scratching their headsspeculation was that ISON’s frozen nucleus might have completely disintegrated as its vast reservoir of ice was evaporated by the intense solar heat.

Hours later however, to the surprise of the entire astronomical community, the stealthy comet appeared to resurface on wide-angle views from the space agency’s SOHO spacecraft, clearly showing that something had made the hairpin turn around the sun. The comet appeared to brighten and form a fan-shaped tail.

ISON appears as a white smear heading up and away from the sun. ISON was not visible during its closest approach to the sun, so many scientists thought it had disintegrated, but images like this one from the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory suggest that a small nucleus may be intact. Credit: ESA/NASA/SOHO/GSFC
ISON appears as a white smear heading up and away from the sun. ISON was not visible during its closest approach to the sun, so many scientists thought it had disintegrated, but images like this one from the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory suggested initially that a small nucleus may have remained intact. Credit: ESA/NASA/SOHO/GSFC

The day after the solar encounter there was a feeling of optimism.  With a distinct brightening observed, initially it looked like a zombie-form of Comet ISON may have partially survived its roasting. But as of late December 1st,  reports are now looking much more pessimistic, indicating that in all likelihood that the comet indeed did disintegrate, leaving behind only a ghost of comet ISON in the form of a dust cloud.  This theory appears to be bolstered by new satellite images which show it fading fast as it continues to recede from the sun.

This weakening trend obviously does not bode well for those hoping for a flashy sky show later this weekone that was initially predicted.

According to spaceweather.com’s website, ” Experienced astrophotographers might be able to capture the comet’s fading “ghost” in the pre-dawn sky, but a naked-eye spectacle is out of the question.”

The best chance for photographers and hopeful skywatchers with binoculars to capture views of Comet ISON”s remains will be in the pre-dawn skies of early December.

Illustration showing where to search for remain of Comet ISON in the east-southeast skies before dawn. Credit: NASA
Illustration showing where to search for remain of Comet ISON in the east-southeast skies before dawn. Credit: NASA

 

The comet can’t be laid to rest just yet, and many satellites, including the Hubble Space Telescope will be on the case, trying to view any remains of Comet ISON as it heads back towards the frigid recesses of the outer solar system that it came from some 3.5 billion years ago.

So hopefully we may still have a few nice, space-based, parting shots of this much hyped icy interloper to look forward to.

 

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter and Facebook.

Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.
  • Marietta Alexander

    :Perhaps this comet is meant to usher in the final days of planet earth as we have known it especially here in the U.S..
    Paul Crouch, founder of TBN, died yesterday of heart issues. He died on the fourth day of Hanukkah; TBN has been in existence 40 years! This unique day with Hanukkah and Thanksgiving together will not occur for 79,000 years; He was 79 years old! This was his time and the earth is about to experience judgment for its wickedness.

  • RG

    We’ll just have to wait and see if there is anything to see.

  • twisted

    Fear not minions
    Its the tail in front of the comet that is obscuring the view and making it look like a dust cloud, it will soon fall behind

  • isaac Ngwenya

    I think it will be cooling of and during its rebirth collect ice and revive itself hehehe little knowledge

  • isaac Ngwenya

    Little brains. Says it might be on the path regaining its strength through gathering more ice and metaphorising itself

  • Steve nichols

    When s the dust are asteroids supposed to hit Earth.

  • Bucc-i

    Go home ISON, you’re drunk!

  • [Tony] Western Australia

    I was hoping for a bit more bang for the buck so too speak.
    Oh well its another thing I can say I saw, In my life time on this world !

  • Bruce

    How do we know what a sungrazing comet is “suppose” to do normally? If this is so rare and this comet has been around for billions of years why do some believe it is gone just because they can’t “see” it? We are only going by an “observation” type of science which is highly conjectural. Perhaps the debris or tail is obscuring the “observation” or it needs to be further from the sun before it can be properly observed “as” a comet. We simply do not know so those who say it is dead are just guessing as much as those saying it is still alive. Only time will tell.

  • Babu G. Ranganathan

    ASTEROIDS, COMETS, AND METEORS ORIGINATED FROM EARTH: In the Earth’s past there were powerful volcanic explosions propelling millions of tons of earth soil and rock (now asteroids and meteors which may contain organic molecules or organisms) into space. Read my popular Internet article, ANY LIFE ON MARS CAME FROM EARTH. The article explains how millions of tons of Earth soil may exist on Mars, and how debris we call asteroids and meteors could have originated from Earth. According to a Newsweek article of September 21, 1998, p. 12 that quotes a NASA scientist, SEVEN MILLION tons of Earth soil may exist on Mars! How could this be possible? Read and find out.

    Even if the right chemicals exist, life cannot arise by chance. The molecules that make-up life have to be in a sequence, just like the letters found in a sentence.

    Scientist and creationist, Brian Thomas explains:

    “Astronomers measure comets’ masses and erosion rates to calculate potential lifespans. Sun grazing comets last fewer than 100,000 years.2 They thus confront secular astronomy which maintains that comets formed with the rest of the solar system billions of years ago. A solar system that old should have no remaining comets.

    How do secularists solve this dilemma?

    Reporting on Ison, The Independent said, “Comet Ison has taken millions of years to reach us travelling from the so-called Oort cloud – a reservoir of trillions and trillions of chunks of rock and ice, leftovers from the birth of the planets.”3

    Unfortunately, nobody has yet witnessed a single one of those “trillions and trillions of chunks.” Going strictly with observational science, the “so-called Oort cloud” may exist only in the reservoir of the human mind.

    Clearly, secular astronomers invented the Oort cloud to rescue their billions-of-years dogma from a disintegration process that limits a comet’s age—and thus the age of the Solar System—to thousands of years. When Ison becomes visible later this year, perhaps it will remind thoughtful viewers that the universe is quite young, just as Scripture teaches” (Brian Thomas, M.S., Science Writer at the Institute for Creation research).
    Check out my most recent Internet articles and sites: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION and WAR AMONG EVOLUTIONISTS (2nd Edition)

    Babu G. Ranganathan*
    B.A. Bible/Biology

    Author of popular Internet article, TRADITIONAL DOCTRINE OF HELL EVOLVED FROM GREEK ROOTS

    *I have given successful lectures (with question and answer period afterwards) defending creation before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities. I’ve been privileged to be recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis “Who’s Who in The East” for my writings on religion and science.

  • Kit Eakle

    No photos on Dec. 2… Passing within a million miles of the sun, there seems little hope of the Comet’s survival in any naked eye visible form. But, what with Paul Crouch gone, and the world only existing, along with the “so-called ‘Oort Cloud'” in our tiny human minds, who knows?

  • Jay

    “ASTEROIDS, COMETS, AND METEORS ORIGINATED FROM EARTH”

    Uhhh, no, this is not at all true!

  • J.A. Noche Sr.

    ‘ a COMET on this time of Climate-change” (wonderful universe)

    – a STAR in times of Savior’s birth,, (joy to the world)

    Everybody’s changing the world keeps changing and yet im still thesame.

  • Paul

    Nothing…after all the hype? Really? Next time don’t bother me unless there’s a 99.99% chance it will hit my house.

  • Mark Sand

    Saying “Scientist and creationist” is like saying liberal conservative. There’s no such thing.

  • BMK

    wow Babu G. Ranganathan, that is some wonderful third world education there.

  • Richard Mead BA Hons Phil.

    Bruce when you got up this morning was it by observation that you were sure you had, by any chance?? As for the death of Paul Crouch, how many other people died at the same time????
    And is it really significant. By chance do the wicked really get punished, or is it the meek?

  • Laurent

    That’s really pity! If the ISON comet survived we could see it during few week after its passage close to the sun. You could see and follow the preliminary trajectory of the comet modeled in 3D

    http://spacetravelfoundation.blogspot.fr/2013/11/ion-comet-trajectory-modeled-in-3d.html

    We have to wait now for the next one

  • Trystan

    You will find this out soon right

  • Gary S

    @Babu ‘Going strictly with observational science, the “so-called Oort cloud” may exist only in the reservoir of the human mind. Clearly, secular astronomers invented the Oort cloud to rescue their billions-of-years dogma from a disintegration process that limits a comet’s age—and thus the age of the Solar System—to thousands of years.’

    Still spouting that garbage, Babu? A number of bodies have been observed beyond the orbit of Pluto. The trajectory of comet ISON indicates that it comes from even farther, and this is its FIRST pass by the sun. That means it has not encountered any “disintegration process” before, so no problem with its great age. Just do the math. Or do you believe that comets and fossils, etc have been put there by god to test our faith?

    How silly!

  • klontjie

    Its dead.long live ison

  • Sarah Arnold

    Ummmm…..I think it went to heaven!Babu,is your religion right or wrong?My religion is Presbyterian, we attend to share the gospel.But,God put the dinosaurs there not to test our faith,but the Bible says that you can’t question God for example,” why did you do this to us!”you can’t say that or else you could get your self to were God is going to send you to,hell,I AM NOT KIDDING.

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