News / Science & Technology

Incoming ISON Comet Headed for Close Encounter with Sun

Comet ISON is shown in this NASA handout photographed by the Hubble telescope, Apr. 10, 2013.
Comet ISON is shown in this NASA handout photographed by the Hubble telescope, Apr. 10, 2013.
Reuters
A comet is heading for a close encounter with the sun later this month, and providing it is not vaporized or torn apart it should be visible to the naked eye sometime in December.
 
Comet ISON is expected to pass just about 621,000 miles from the sun's surface on Nov. 28.
 
Scientists are not sure how ISON will hold up. As it blasts around the sun, traveling at 234 miles per second, the comet will be heated to about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to vaporize not just the ice in the comet's body, but rock and metal as well.
 
If the heat does not kill ISON, the sun's gravity may rip it apart. However, recent calculations show that ISON will most likely survive, scientists say.
 
The comet was discovered in September 2012 by two amateur astronomers using Russia's International Scientific Optical Network, or ISON, for which the comet is named.
 
It was extraordinarily bright at the time, considering its great distance beyond Jupiter's orbit, raising the prospect of a truly cosmic spectacle as it approached the sun.
 
That is because heat from the sun causes ice in a comet's body to vaporize, creating bright, distinctive tails and fuzzy looking, glowing bodies. Depending on how much ice a comet contains, the closer it comes to the sun, the brighter it shines.
 
Over the weekend, amateur astronomers began posting the first pictures of the comet on the Internet that were taken with just binoculars or small telescopes.
 
“I finally saw Comet ISON for the first time using small binoculars!” pilot Brian Whittaker wrote on the SpaceWeather.com website. “It was faint, but is predicted to brighten and move each day! Exciting!”
 
Comets are believed to be frozen remains left over from the formation of the solar system some 4.5 billion years ago.
 
The group of comets that ISON is from is located in the Oort Cloud, a reservoir of icy bodies beyond Neptune's orbit. Occasionally, an object is gravitationally bumped out of the cloud and into a flight path that brings it into the inner solar system. Computer models show ISON is a first-time visitor.
 
The comet is moving through the constellation Virgo low in the eastern sky before dawn, astronomer Tony Phillips wrote on SpaceWeather.com.
 
“It is still too dim for naked-eye viewing, but an increasingly easy target for backyard optics,” Phillips added.
 
If predictions prove correct, the comet should be visible to the naked eye in Earth's early morning skies in early December and throughout the night, beginning in January.

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid