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Comet ISON dead or not: Comet of the century fizzles in thin air

Comet ISON dead or not is still not clear. But the comet of the century seems to have fizzled in thin air

As ISON brushed past the sun, it kept disappearing from scientists’ view sporadically and left them wondering whether the comet managed to stay intact in its perilous journey. Though scientists mostly expect ISON to have perished in the journey, findings have not yet resulted in a conclusive result.

The original ISON boasted a 0.62 mile (1km) nucleus, but after having endured the intense heat of the sun, scientists are guessing only 10 metre pieces of rubble might have remained. To reach a definite conclusion, scientists will keep observing the remains of ISON for several coming weeks. NASA would be utilizing the STEREO spacecraft’s cameras to monitor and look for any bright fragments, along with NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility’s (IRTF) 3m wide telescope located  in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Alongside these resources, NASA’s recently launched MAVEN spacecraft is also being used to observe ISON next week. Though scientists are leaving no stone unturned to find any bit of nucleus that might have been left, ESA’s Gerhard Schwehm said, “I believe we will no longer see a brilliant display of ISON.”

To look for the comet, NASA’s Hubble and Chandra observatories will also be performing deep outer space searches by mid-to-late December. Spitzer will continue to look for ISON in the early 2014. Scientists inform that if there is still a central source of emission, any remnant of surviving nucleus, it will result in a much fainter coma and tail form. This might be invisible currently due to the dust emitted from before the disruption event.

When ISON was discovered in September 2012, it was over 584 million miles from the Sun. In July it was heading towards the sun at an average speed of 55,405mph. Continually accelerating due to the gravitational pull of the sun, as it came within 1.2 million miles of the Sun’s surface this November, it was whizzing past the sun at an astonishing 425,000mph.


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