As Comet ISON hurtles toward the sun, its million-year-long journey through our solar system may end with its violent death — or a spectacular sky show.
On Thanksgiving, when the comet rounds the sun, professional and amateur astronomers alike will await ISON’s fate with bated breath. Its tail may get ripped off by a cloud of solar particles, or the sun’s brutal radiation and pressure may demolish it completely.
But if ISON makes it out alive, stargazers say, it could provide a breathtaking show visible to the naked eye and possibly live up to the name “Comet of the Century,” as some astronomers have dubbed it.
“On Friday, we’ll all be delighted to see its beautiful face as it then comes around the sun,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s planetary science division. “Then between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it will fly over the North Pole — a very nice holiday comet.”
ISON is a lone traveler originating from a giant population of comets at the very edge of the solar system.
“ISON is very special,” Green said. “What makes it different is where it comes from — the further reaches of the sun’s gravity.”
- Will icy comet ISON survive its close encounter with the sun? (independent.co.uk)
- Comet ISON nears the sun (earthsky.org)
- 11/25/13 global meteor sitings/asteroid flyby(NewJerusalemComing)