Everyone on NASA's special Thanksgiving Google hangout announced the death of Comet ISON after it traveled around the sun. Much to our dismay, of course. The comet's remnants can now be seen breaking through to the other side.
"It's not looking good for ISON in my opinion," Slate's Phil Plait said during NASA's Google hangout on Thursday. Some of NASA's top star-gazers — like, the ones who have telescope measuring contests — gathered to watch the Comet ISON make its first and possibly only trip around the sun. "That's kind of my assessment too," added astrophysicist Karl Battams, the head of NASA’s Comet ISON Observing Campaign. ISON travelled dangerously close to the star, and many didn't expect it to survive. If ISON came out the other side unscathed, the comet would travel travel close enough to earth to dazzle and dance for us puny humans in December.
Per Gizmodo, this GIF shows ISON's trajectory before disappearing. But the comet had averted death once before. Just this week, all signs said ISON broke up during its approach towards the sun. Scientists lost sight of the comet, which was unfortunate. At that point ISON wasn't close enough to generate real interest. But ISON miraculously survived and NASA didn't have to cancel its holiday party. So, hope could spring eternal once more!
Just a few hours after the Google hangout ended, new evidence emerged suggesting the scientists were premature to pronounce ISON dead:
ISON: There *was* a kilometer or 2 of rock & ice there beforehand; maybe the Sun didn't get all of it. We'll see. pic.twitter.com/6av6md6681— Amy Mainzer (@AmyMainzer) November 28, 2013
What these astronomers are likely seeing is ISON's remains as they travel through the other side of the sun's orbit. A comet is just a collection of iron, rock and gravel held together by ice (and magic too, right?) hurtling through space. Like two humans ending a relationship, when a comet breaks up the result isn't necessarily neat and tidy.
NASA does hedge a bit and leave some wiggle room hoping for the comet's survival in its official statement. "While the fate of the comet is not yet established, it is likely that it did not survive the trip," NASA said.
The science types wanted to remind everyone how, despite the comet's untimely demise, today was still one for the history books. So NASA retweeted this guy:
A mountain-sized lump of ice and rock was just entirely evaporated by our Sun. And we got to sit back & watch the view. Isn't space awesome?— Hugh Osborn (@HughO2) November 28, 2013
A quick holiday lesson: the sun always wins. Eat your vitamins, drink water and wear sunscreen, kids.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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