TribLIVE

| USWorld


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Incineration likely ends comet's long journey

About The Tribune-Review
The Tribune-Review can be reached via e-mail or at 412-321-6460.
Contact Us | Video | Photo Reprints

Daily Photo Galleries


By USA Today

Published: Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, 7:21 p.m.

Like Icarus, comet ISON appears to have flown too close to the sun and broken up in its corona.

Scientists had hoped that the comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system would be able to slingshot around the sun on Thursday and emerge streaming a tail visible to the naked eye next month.

But after NASA telescopes tracked the comet plunging into the sun's corona, no evidence of it emerged on the other side. Scientists said they would continue to analyze imagery from the telescopes for signs of the comet or debris from it breaking up.

“At this point, I do suspect that the comet has broken up and died,” says Karl Battams, a comet scientist for the Naval Research Laboratory, who joined a NASA and Google+ chat from Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona. “Let's at least give it a couple of more hours before we start writing the obituary.”

Even if the comet broke up, it offered a rare opportunity to see how one of the oldest objects in the solar system interacted with the sun's magnetic field.

The comet originated in the Oort Cloud, a region halfway from the sun to the next closest star.

But while scientists have tracked other comets from the Oort Cloud, Battams said this one was the first in recorded astronomy from so far away that passed so close to the sun, passing the sun at a distance of about 1 million miles.

“This is a spectacularly rare event,” Battams said. “We have no idea when we're going to see something this amazing again.”

 

 
 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Nation

  1. Teen OK after riding in wheel well of Hawaii jet
  2. Shale oil, gas drilling boom wins favor with labor unions, thwarting environmentalists
  3. After bombs, Boston Marathon under tight security
  4. IRS, other agencies award contracts to license plate tracking company
  5. Postal Service overhaul expected to appeal to Dems
  6. Study of corn waste as fuel source finds gasoline less damaging to atmosphere
  7. Warnings on youths, codeine unheeded; lack of effectiveness, dangers had been raised
  8. Art from ‘Dick and Jane’ series set for auction
  9. Navy endorses 24-hour sleep cycle for sailors
  10. Ruling on Cleveland police chase questioned
  11. Seafood study: Up to 32 percent imported to U.S. is caught illegally
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.