Astronomers are already getting set for the arrival of Comet ISON, which may become one of the brightest comets ever seen when it cruises through the inner solar system this fall.
The wild card factor with ISON is especially high, Battams said, since this is apparently the comet's first trip through the inner solar system from the distant, icy Oort cloud. Astronomers and skywatchers probably won't get a real sense of how the comet is going to behave until early August, when water ice should start sublimating in earnest, he added.
Sizzle or Fizzle?There's no guarantee that ISON will live up to the hype; it may fall apart before even making its closest solar approach. Comets are notoriously unpredictable and sometimes fizzle out despite great expectations, as Comet Kahoutek did in 1973.
Comet ISON could put on a spectacular show around this time, experts say, potentially glowing so brightly that it's visible in the daytime sky. (The comet poses no impact threat to Earth.)
(PHOTOS: Pan STARRS Lights Up the Sky)
"Sungrazers experience the most intense thermal and gravitational stresses of any comet. "Once [ISON] gets really close in to the sun, then we could start to see some of the composition that you wouldn't normally get."
In fact, Deep Impact has already begun its ISON work. The NASA probe, which has also studied several other comets in deep space, snapped its first photos of Comet ISON in January.
close to our star. Indeed, ISON is forecast to zoom just 680,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) above the solar surface on its closest approach, which will take place on Nov. 28.
a sungrazing comet, meaning its long, looping path through space takes it extremely Wholesale Jerzees Polo Shirts Custom Embroidery
Skywatchers aren't the only people looking forward to the icy wanderer's solar encounter. Astronomers are excited as well, for ISON's flyby could give them a rare window into comet composition.
ISON is Fred Perry Black Shirt
So Battams and his colleagues have contacted major ground based observatories, raising awareness of the comet's flyby and encouraging them to solicit ISON observing proposals. The response has been warm, with telescope operators typically voicing enthusiasm about the campaign, Battams said.
"Observing campaigns are planned by the SOHO, STEREO and SDO solar missions; by Spitzer, Chandra and Hubble space telescopes; and by the Deep Impact, JUNO, Mercury MESSENGER, Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter missions," the CIOC website states. "Other missions at or on Mars are looking into observing ISON, as Lacoste White
But the CIOC Team is proceeding as if Comet ISON will put on a dazzling show, Polo Shirts Designer Brands because that's the scientifically prudent thing to do.
The CIOC crew has also reached out to some spacecraft mission teams, asking them to consider taking a look at the comet at some point. And a number of them are already on board.
Astronomers Gearing Up for Possible 'Comet of the Century'
are a handful of other NASA Planetary missions. We welcome and encourage our international partners to contact us and join in the fun!"
"We have to go forward with optimism and prepare for something really special, something really spectacular, and hope that it happens," Battams said. "If it does, we're absolutely going to be in place to take an unprecedented and comprehensive set of observations of the comet."
NASA has brought together a small team of experts to organize an observing campaign for Comet ISON, which could potentially shine as brightly as the moon when it makes its closest pass by the sun in late November if the most optimistic scenarios play out.
Bringing Everyone TogetherRussian amateur astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok discovered Comet ISON in September 2012 after poring over photographs taken by a telescope run by the International Scientific Optical Network. Hence the comet's official name, which is C/2012 S1 (ISON).
Coordinating the efforts of observatories on the ground and in space should help wring as much quality science as possible out of the comet's solar flyby, Comet ISON Observing Campaign (CIOC) officials said. Naval Research Lab in Washington and a member of the eight person CIOC Team. "There's a lot of new science that we could get from this." [Photos of Comet ISON in Night Sky]
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