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The Strange Death of Comet Ison 49

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "Last year, astronomers announced that a small ball of ice and rock heading towards the inner Solar System could turn out to be the most eye-catching comet in living memory. They calculated that Comet Ison's orbit would take it behind the Sun but that it would then head towards Earth where it would put on a spectacular display of heavenly fireworks. Sure enough, Ison brightened dramatically as it headed Sunwards. But as astronomers watched on the evening of 28 November, the brightly flaring Ison moved behind the Sun but never emerged. The comet simply disappeared. Now a new analysis of the death of Ison suggests that the comet was doomed long before it reached the Sun. Images from several Sun-observing spacecraft that had a unique view of events, indicate that Ison exhausted its supply of water and other ice in the final flare-ups as it approached the Sun. The new study shows that all that was left in its last hours were a few hundred thousands pebbles glowing brightly as they vaporized in the Sun's heat. In fact, Comet Ison died in full view of the watching hordes of astronomers on Earth who did not realize what they were watching at the time."
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The Strange Death of Comet Ison

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  • Dear ISON, You always were a sociable type. You weren't afraid to come close to our planet. Even if it meant potentially killing us. Were sorry we didn't notice your death.
  • "Who killed Comet Ison?" — an upcoming documentary by Michael Moore.

  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @01:30PM (#46941615) Homepage Journal

    First, of course was Shoemaker-Levy 9.

    And we're not counting people who don tracksuits, Nikes and scarf deadly pudding whenever they see a big comet scooting by.

    • This seems to be a standard practice. Detect a new comet, predict that it will be the most spectacular viewing during our lifetimes, then whistle innocently when no one actually sees it.

  • by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @01:30PM (#46941619)

    Big ball of ice surprisingly vanished behind big ball of fire, analysis to follow.

    Yup, we've come a long way in our understanding of the universe.

  • Icarus (Score:5, Funny)

    by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @01:32PM (#46941629)

    I think Icarus had the same problem.

    • Don't know how, they ran out of space on their rock, I mean calendar, a long time ago. I guess it's easier for us today, just call Franklin Covey for a refill and BOOM, another year appears.
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

    You know what they say: easy comet, easy go

    • LOL

      Yea, I think you really cleaned up on that.....

      Just remember Jo, "Nothing can hold a can to Comet!"

  • I don't think these guys can forecast climate/astronomy/species origination enough to cut off debate.
  • by DarkFencer ( 260473 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @02:24PM (#46942031)

    All the coverage I saw (from astronomy writers, NASA, etc.) said there was definitely a chance of it burning up.

    If the non-science media hyped it up somewhat, well they do that for everything. Yes, I a (and many others watched for ISON). Yes, we were disappointed, but no one should have been surprised.

    • I think witnessing a comet burn off its remaining supply of water and go dark could hardly be called disappointing.

  • by CheshireDragon ( 1183095 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @02:58PM (#46942297) Homepage
    ...while it lasted. Especially through my 20cm Newtonian. so bright, so bold.
  • ... its coming right at us!!!!!

  • This write-up is misleading.
    It states, "But as astronomers watched on the evening of 28 November, the brightly flaring Ison moved behind the Sun but never emerged."
    That is wrong. ISON DID in fact emerge. Just not as a cohesive comet. What emerged was a "fan" of dust and debris.
    It's not like ISON simply disappeared with no trace and no one saw it.
  • all life is just a result of causal interactions mixed up with another dimension called "time". we call an asteroids disintegration strange because we simply do not have the causal intuition needed to realise it is not strange. My prognosis is lack of knowledge I recommend all the affected people need to be prescribed with a healthy dose of Mathematics, Physics & and foundation of Science. Provided by a truthful discovery applicator using in conjunction with healthy curiosity.

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27