News Item

A spectacular Comet Ison?

This week could see one of the greatest celestial light-shows ever as Comet Ison passes close to the Sun.

Ison’s movement has been tracked over the past year as it moves towards the inner solar system - and on 28 November it is due to pass through the corona of the Sun itself.

Ison is ~4.6 billion years old, having formed at the origination of the solar system, and has been dormant in the outer reaches of the Sun’s gravitational field for most of that time. But, relatively recently, it was knocked out of the distant 'Oort' cloud and began a journey towards the Sun. That trip is very nearly at an end - and astronomers don’t know if it is one that it will survive.

Speaking on BBC, Dr Matthew Knight, who has studied Ison for a year, described 3 possible scenarios for what could happen on 28 November:
- it may be pulled apart by the gravitational force of the Sun, stretching it beyond breaking point and forcing it to explode as it leaves the corona.
- it may succumb to the heat of the Sun. It is made up of ice and other frozen gases, and could experience heat of up to 2,000ºC and simply fizzle out.
- as it flies through the corona, the gases could be heated up and ignited just enough to produce a tail - burning off in the wake of Ison’s flight, but not enough to destroy it entirely.

If option 3 happens, those in Earth’s northern hemisphere could witness an extraordinary display in the night sky - Ison could appear as a bright object near the horizon, with a tail extending all the way overhead.

If Ison does indeed survive its brush with the Sun, it will be visible from 3 December and throughout most of the month.

Further details from The Independent link below.

  • 26 November 2013
  • Space

Contact Us

The Royal Institute of Navigation
1 Kensington Gore
London
SW7 2AT

+44 (0)20 7591 3134
admin@rin.org.uk

E-Mail Communication

The Royal Institute of Navigation periodically sends out email updates to its membership and those who have subscribed to events and conferences run by the RIN. In doing so, the RIN takes all reasonable precautions to ensure that the emails are only sent to those who have requested them, and that no third party can make unauthorised use of any @rin.org.uk email address to send out mailings.If you receive unsolicited mail from any @rin.org.uk address then please inform us at admin@rin.org.uk and we will take appropriate action.

Join the RIN

You can apply for any category of RIN membership by completing the online membership application form and paying using our secure credit/debit card payment system.

Join Now