Monday, November 25, 2013

Has Comet ISON disintedgrated? (or is it disintedgrating)

Comet C/2012 S1 ISON in the medium resolution PNG images from H1A on 23 November. If you click the image you can see a bright "knot" in the tail.Comet C/2012 S1 ISON in the medium resolution PNG images from H1A on 25 November. The comet still apears to be healthy, but looks can be decieveing

There has been a lot of buzz in the astronomy community over the last 8 hours of so over news that comet C/2012 S1 ISON may be breaking up/ has already broken up. There are several elements to this.

A CalTech team using the IRAM millimeter telescope in Spain has reported a 20 fold fall in molecular emission lines from 21 November to 25 November. They interpret this as a disintegration of the comet. The TRAPPIST team reports a fall in dust production rates by a factor of 3, AfRho measurements by the CARA team suggest nuclear erosion. Terry Lovejoy has measured strong non-gravitational forces which may suggest a breakup. Dan Fishers notes an alternate view of the CalTech results.

Against this the comet looks healthy and brightening in the STEREO images. This could be due to the comet being an expanding cloud of reflective dust though.

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