Hubble Snaps Picture of Potential "Comet of the Century"

Hubble Snaps Picture of Potential "Comet of the Century"

image

Comet ISON's path could either delight or dismay come November.

Rushing for the Sun at 47,000 miles per hour, comet ISON might be the comet of the century, and the Hubble telescope has snapped a preview of what we're in for here on Earth. It's possible that ISON might survive close enough to the Sun to become very bright - brighter, in fact, than the full moon - and visible during the daytime here on earth. Hubble snapped a picture of the comet out near Jupiter's orbit on April 10, a distance of about 386 million miles from the Sun and about 394 million miles from Earth. ISON will hopefully go close to the sun, survive, and start making the journey back out of the solar system. At that point it will be visible from Earth.

The comet currently has a jet of heated gas shooting from its solid nucleus, causing a very visible dust trail. That trail is being caused on the sunward side of the comet - because those gasses are being heated by the sun. The nucleus of a comet often contains pockets of frozen gas. If ISON survives getting within hundreds of thousands of miles of the sun, then we here on earth will be in for a treat in late November of this year. Right now, ISON is just visible as a tiny speck on most telescopes.

Hubble's images make the comet's nucleus to be about three or four miles across. The images, which would have been in black and white originally, were mapped to a blue scale according to brightness values, allowing researchers to better study the range of brightness from the comet. Astronomers believe that this is probably ISON's first trip into the inner solar system.

Source & Image: Hubblesite

Love our science news? Try the Geekend Update, which brings you fascinating science every Saturday.

Permalink

Keep Bruce Willis on standby just to be sure.

Somebody is SO getting invaded come Thanksgiving.

I like your new avatar Jon!

A comet visible in daylight? Someone should totally follow it, see where it leads them!

Hopefully it will be visible. I want to see it so badly.

JonB:

Comet ISON's path could either delight or dismay come November.

Wait, what dismay? Or is that just a veiled Armageddon joke?

Welp, at least they took the liberty of spotting this one.

Means the Met Office are now able to accurately predict Novembers weather forecast.

I thought NASA tracked this kind of stuff and knew exactly where they were going (or so they lead us to believe).
And yet for something this big that we already see and they have no idea what it's going to do?

Ugh, lets start stuffing Bruce in a spaceship now!

Dangit2019:

JonB:

Comet ISON's path could either delight or dismay come November.

Wait, what dismay? Or is that just a veiled Armageddon joke?

If it turns out to be made of more gasses than we think, it will simply melt away and not make it closer than about 700,000 miles to the sun.

If it's tougher than that, we'll probably get a spectacular light show.

And guys, hate to break it to you, but there's no chance of this thing hitting Earth.

JonB:

Dangit2019:

JonB:

Comet ISON's path could either delight or dismay come November.

Wait, what dismay? Or is that just a veiled Armageddon joke?

If it turns out to be made of more gasses than we think, it will simply melt away and not make it closer than about 700,000 miles to the sun.

If it's tougher than that, we'll probably get a spectacular light show.

And guys, hate to break it to you, but there's no chance of this thing hitting Earth.

Oh no what a shame? Lots of people won't die, how dissapointing? :P

Here's hoping for the spectacular light show.

DoctorM:
I thought NASA tracked this kind of stuff and knew exactly where they were going (or so they lead us to believe).
And yet for something this big that we already see and they have no idea what it's going to do?

Ugh, lets start stuffing Bruce in a spaceship now!

I sense a lot of sarcasm here but I'm going to play this straight anyway.

There are literally BILLIONS of objects circling the sun (or randomly passing by) that could potentially end us. NASA has only been searching and tracking them for a few decades. They are finding more and more every day, but, it's a big universe and they are bound to miss a few. Here's hoping they catch any that might actually pose a real threat to us... And Early!

OT: Pretty Shiny Lights in the sky in time for Thanksgiving? NEAT!

Its a spaceship and the aliens are here to rapture us. Join me, true believers, for I have been in contact with our coming saviors and they have incredible fashion sense.

I just wish I could go to Hawaii or somewhere equally remote to view the comet sans city lights.

thiosk:
Its a spaceship and the aliens are here to rapture us. Join me, true believers, for I have been in contact with our coming saviors and they have incredible fashion sense.

I just wish I could go to Hawaii or somewhere equally remote to view the comet sans city lights.

Yeah, I've been to Mauna Kea. The night view there is simply unreal.
Much better than anywhere near Chicago.

TheSYLOH:
Keep Bruce Willis on standby just to be sure.

Funny story, all the nukes in the world fired from Earth would actually be more likely to save the Earth than a risky-as-hell space mission. To wit, physics. A great force exerted on an object in a zone of no gravity will always alter its course. And us? Well...we have enough nuclear missles to-

FalloutJack:

TheSYLOH:
Keep Bruce Willis on standby just to be sure.

Funny story, all the nukes in the world fired from Earth would actually be more likely to save the Earth than a risky-as-hell space mission. To wit, physics. A great force exerted on an object in a zone of no gravity will always alter its course. And us? Well...we have enough nuclear missles to-

I'm trying to remember a quote, from where, I don't remember, I also can't seem to remember the actual quote(yes I know, "dizzying intellect"[it might actually be from Armageddon as stupid as that sounds.]) but the gist is that blowing up a huge object doesn't do anything to reduce the mass of the object, just turns it into a swarm of equally deadly still relatively large objects. Even detonating a bomb near an asteroid might be enough to fracture it.

Do4600:
BOOM!

Let's not take from the movies on this. There is a debate on the exact physicality on what would actually happen in terms of mass, direction, and damage to the proposed asteroid. HOWEVER, there are several important factors to be known.

{1} We would definitely know of it alot sooner than we would in the movie. This comet, for instance, is around Jupiter, correct? We know about it now, when - even if it were coming right at us - we would have loads of time to load our proverbial guns to do something about it. An asteroid we see coming from that far away is a sitting duck.

{2} The mass of the asteroid couldn't be UNchanged, even by virtue of displacement to smaller bodies. Truthfully, a missle hitting a section of an asteroid would vaporize part of it, as this is the coldness of space and suddenly great concussive heat source explodes right on it. If it makes a crater on the ground, it makes a crater in space.

{3} Again, I must point out the nature of zero gravity space. Any object that is acted upon by a significant force is going to be altered. Fragmentation is possible and even likely in this case, but not in a bad way, and neither should the redirection. There is nothing holding the proposed asteroid to its course other than whatever acted upon it maybe a thousand years ago.

You put that all together and I'm certain that we could pinpoint an effective missle strike on a dangerous body while it is still far away and use the missles we've got to physically knock away the bulk of the thing while smaller bits spiral off into infinity without direction. The chances of us getting hit by anything that won't burn up in atmo is very small then. That is, at least, my theory. I believe we have the technology and the know-how and the understanding for it.

FalloutJack:

Do4600:
BOOM!

Let's not take from the movies on this. There is a debate on the exact physicality on what would actually happen in terms of mass, direction, and damage to the proposed asteroid. HOWEVER, there are several important factors to be known.

{1} We would definitely know of it alot sooner than we would in the movie. This comet, for instance, is around Jupiter, correct? We know about it now, when - even if it were coming right at us - we would have loads of time to load our proverbial guns to do something about it. An asteroid we see coming from that far away is a sitting duck.

{2} The mass of the asteroid couldn't be UNchanged, even by virtue of displacement to smaller bodies. Truthfully, a missle hitting a section of an asteroid would vaporize part of it, as this is the coldness of space and suddenly great concussive heat source explodes right on it. If it makes a crater on the ground, it makes a crater in space.

{3} Again, I must point out the nature of zero gravity space. Any object that is acted upon by a significant force is going to be altered. Fragmentation is possible and even likely in this case, but not in a bad way, and neither should the redirection. There is nothing holding the proposed asteroid to its course other than whatever acted upon it maybe a thousand years ago.

You put that all together and I'm certain that we could pinpoint an effective missle strike on a dangerous body while it is still far away and use the missles we've got to physically knock away the bulk of the thing while smaller bits spiral off into infinity without direction. The chances of us getting hit by anything that won't burn up in atmo is very small then. That is, at least, my theory. I believe we have the technology and the know-how and the understanding for it.

Number 3 is the real trick. If the object is 9.5 kilometers across it's going to be difficult to alter the trajectory of all that mass, of course it gets easier the further out it is, but the difference in time between spotting the asteroid and the vehicle rendezvousing with it will be perhaps a year or two. If it fractures, some of the asteroid will blast off into space, but whatever is left may be travelling at roughly the same trajectory and might not be entirely solid. It would need to be pulverized into chunks from 9.5 kilometers down to about 5-10 meters before it would become harmless, getting peppered with chunks between 15-20 meters across would be much worse than a world war two bombing run. It might take a few explosions to alter the course of the asteroid and the more explosions you use the more you increase the risk of it breaking apart and becoming difficult to contain.

Do4600:
Zoop

Interestingly enough, I think you can set a missle's detonation sequence to a particular moment in time. Say, you need to blow up in the path of a flock of space rocks that might be a swarm and hard to hit, as you mentioned. If you merely had it detonate after a certain amount of time, the shockwave of the blast would scatter smaller pieces all over the place, all but in the direction of the Earth. You make a valid point about other trajectories and trying to angle it, but even if rocket science fails us there, this would covereth a multitude of sins.

Keneth:

DoctorM:
I thought NASA tracked this kind of stuff and knew exactly where they were going (or so they lead us to believe).
And yet for something this big that we already see and they have no idea what it's going to do?

Ugh, lets start stuffing Bruce in a spaceship now!

I sense a lot of sarcasm here but I'm going to play this straight anyway.

There are literally BILLIONS of objects circling the sun (or randomly passing by) that could potentially end us. NASA has only been searching and tracking them for a few decades. They are finding more and more every day, but, it's a big universe and they are bound to miss a few. Here's hoping they catch any that might actually pose a real threat to us... And Early!

OT: Pretty Shiny Lights in the sky in time for Thanksgiving? NEAT!

It's not if they are capable of tacking every single object in the sky or not, it's that they can see this one, but still have no idea where it's going to go.

Don't they think they should get some computer models on that or something?

Remember what happened last time a comet passed by... The Fire Nation almost had a comeback!

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here