Friday, November 29, 2013

Oops: Comet ISON not dead anymore. 11/29/13

Image from NASA's SOHO satellite

  Yesterday I posted about the death of Comet ISON..... disregard the obituary because it appears to have been resurrected like a giant trick birthday candle blown out by the solar wind.   Although the comet is not dead, it lost some mass and may have fragmented.  It will not be the 'Comet of the Century',  because that would have happened yesterday at the time that its demise appeared to take place. 

  For a more informed explanation here is a cut and paste from today's front page

   COMET ISON LIVES (UPDATED): Cancel the funeral. Comet ISON is back from the dead. Yesterday, Nov. 28th, Comet ISON flew through the sun's atmosphere and appeared to disintegrate before the cameras of several NASA and ESA spacecraft. This prompted reports of the comet's demise. Today, the comet has revived and is rapidly brightening. Click to view a SOHO coronagraph movie of the solar flyby (updated Nov. 29 @ 1800 UT):
Before the flyby, experts had made many predictions about what might happen to the comet, ranging from utter disintegration to glorious survival. No one predicted both.
Karl Battams of NASA's Comet ISON Observing Campaign says, "[colleague] Matthew Knight and I are ripping our hair out right now as we know that so many people in the public, the media and in science teams want to know what's happened. We'd love to know that too! Right now, here's our working hypothesis:
"As comet ISON plunged towards to the Sun, it began to fall apart, losing not giant fragments but at least a lot of reasonably sized chunks. There's evidence of very large dust in the long thin tail we saw in the [SOHO coronagraph] images. Then, as ISON plunged through the corona, it continued to fall apart and vaporize, losing its coma and tail completely just like sungrazing Comet Lovejoy did in 2011. What emerged from the Sun was a small but perhaps somewhat coherent nucleus that has resumed emitting dust and gas for at least the time being."
Battams emphasizes that it is too soon to tell how big the remnant nucleus is or how bright the resurgent comet will ultimately become. "We have a whole new set of unknowns, and this ridiculous, crazy, dynamic and unpredictable object continues to amaze, astound and confuse us to no end. We ask that you please be patient with us for a couple of days as we analyze the data and try to work out what is happening."

Thursday, November 28, 2013


   The comet persistantly billed as the "Comet of the Century" by the astronomically challenged, did not survive the harsh environment of the Sun.  It vaporized in the hours preceding its closest approach.

One of the last images before disintegration at 12:12 EST

Here is a link to a video showing the demise of the comet.

  There is still a chance that the remnants may be visible from a dark sky as a headless ghost comet, with its tail extending up from the eastern horizon before sunrise in the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Misinformation Age : Comet ISON edition

    A little knowledge goes a long way toward muddying the facts.  In September 2012 the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON), an astronomical research group discovered a comet that is destined for a close encounter with the Sun next week.  The intense heating of the icy visitor during perihelion (closest point in its orbit to the Sun) had the potential to create an historic apparition that would dazzle even the casual observer.  Responsible astronomers questioned at the time of the comet's discovery explained that comets are notoriously unpredictable and that many previously anointed  'Comets of the Century'  failed to live up to expectations.  It was also stated that a clearer picture of this comet's fate couldn't be determined until August of this year at the earliest.

  Now that August has come and gone,  it's apparent that the 'Comet of the Century' train has left the station but that hasn't stopped the media outlets from using that term to describe this comet.  In the past few days the comet has undergone significant brightening but not enough to overcome the dismal stagnation that it went through since late summer.   Here are a couple of headlines that appeared this week..... 'Comet Of The Century' Is Coming, And Here's Where You Can See It'  (Huffington Post).............."Looking for the 'comet of the century'? Watch ISON online"  (NBC News)........."Interactive ‘Comet of the Century’ Tracker: Where’s ISON Now?" (TIME Magazine).  

  Anyway,  with a little effort this morning I was able to get a lousy photograph of the smudge of ice that Comet ISON currently is.

Don't see it, do you?
Here is a screengrab from astronomy program Starry Night that provides clues.

Comet of the Misinformation Age

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

When the seasons collide

  Yesterday afternoon, in the 5 o'clock hour, a steady light rain changed over to the first measurable snow of the fall.  This morning, the half inch of snow on lingering colorful leaves,  provided an opportunity to photograph the overlap of the winter and fall seasons. 

   The fall/winter overlap happens almost every year to a degree but rarely does a winter/summer juxtaposition  present itself.  Below are photos of my tomato plants that were not only still bearing fruit but also were still flowering when the snow arrived.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Sleep Mode

What do cats and computers have in common?  After 15 minutes of no activity they put themselves in sleep mode.  Then the cat outsmarts the computer by moving just enough to keep the machine active as she uses it as a heating pad.  Brilliant.

   I had an accident with my car a couple of weeks ago(no one injured) but I think I may have a concussion.  Not from the accident but from the rental car I've been driving since Saturday.  My car, which is in the body shop, has about a foot of head room when I'm in the driver's seat.  The rental car has about 3 inches. . As a result, I banged my head on the door frame of the rental as I entered and exited it the first couple of days.  The headaches are just now fading and my pupils are almost the same size again.   On a positive note, I've been sleeping real well this week.  That's good.......isn't it?