What is a Sungrazing Comet? [hd video]

Sungrazing comets are a special class of comets that come very close to the sun at their nearest approach, a point called perihelion. To be considered a sungrazer, a comet needs to get within about 850,000 miles from the sun at perihelion. Many come even closer, even to within a few thousand miles. Being so close to the sun is very hard on comets for many reasons. They are subjected to a lot of solar radiation which boils off their water or other volatiles. The physical push of the radiation and the solar wind also helps form the tails. And as they get closer to the sun, the comets experience extremely strong tidal forces, or gravitational stress. In this hostile environment, many sungrazers do not survive their trip around the sun. Although they don’t actually crash into the solar surface, the sun is able to destroy them anyway. Many sungrazing comets follow a similar orbit, called the Kreutz Path, and collectively belong to a population called the Kreutz Group. In fact, close to 85% of the sungrazers seen by the SOHO satellite are on this orbital highway. Scientists think one extremely large sungrazing comet broke up hundreds, or even thousands, of years ago, and the current comets on the Kreutz Path are the leftover fragments of it. As clumps of remnants make their way back around the sun, we experience a sharp increase in sungrazing comets, which appears to be going on now. Comet Lovejoy, which reached perihelion on December 15, 2011 is the best known recent Kreutz-group sungrazer. And so far, it is the only one that NASA’s solar-observing fleet has seen survive its trip around the sun. Comet ISON, an upcoming sungrazer with a perihelion of 730,000 miles on November 28, 2013, is not on the Kreutz Path. In fact, ISON’s orbit suggests that it may gain enough momentum to escape the solar system entirely, and never return. Before it does so, it will pass within about 40 million miles from Earth on December 26th. More information on this topic available at: www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/timeline-of-comet-ison-s-dan… Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center NASA image use policy. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission. Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook Find us on Instagram

Comet ISON Approaching the Sun [still]

This movie from NASA’s STEREO spacecraft’s Heliospheric Imager shows Comet ISON, Mercury, Comet Encke and Earth over a five-day period from Nov. 20 to Nov. 25, 2013. The sun sits right of the field of view of this camera. Comet ISON, which will round the sun on Nov. 28, is what’s known as a sungrazing comet, due to its close approach. Foreshortening or the angle at which these images were obtained make Earth appear as if it is closer to the sun than Mercury. If you look closely you will also see a dimmer and smaller comet Encke near comet ISON. A comet’s journey through the solar system is perilous and violent. A giant ejection of solar material from the sun could rip its tail off. Before it reaches Mars — at some 230 million miles away from the sun — the radiation of the sun begins to boil its water, the first step toward breaking apart. And, if it survives all this, the intense radiation and pressure as it flies near the surface of the sun could destroy it altogether. Even if the comet does not survive, tracking its journey will help scientists understand what the comet is made of, how it reacts to its environment, and what this explains about the origins of the solar system. Closer to the sun, watching how the comet and its tail interact with the vast solar atmosphere can teach scientists more about the sun itself. Image Credit: NASA/STEREO NASA image use policy. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission. Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook Find us on Instagram

How to Cook a Comet

A comet’s journey through the solar syste is perilous and violent. Before it reaches Mars – at some 230 million miles away from the sun – the radiation of the sun begins to cook off the frozen water ice directly into gas. This is called sublimation. It is the first step toward breaking the comet apart. If it survives this, the intense radiation and pressure closer to the sun could destroy it altogether. Animators at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. created this short movie showing how the sun can cook a comet. Such a journey is currently being made by Comet ISON. It began its trip from the Oort cloud region of our solar system and is now traveling toward the sun. The comet will reach its closest approach to the sun on Thanksgiving Day — Nov. 28, 2013 — skimming just 730,000 miles above the sun’s surface. If it comes around the sun without breaking up, the comet will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere with the naked eye, and from what we see now, ISON is predicted to be a particularly bright and beautiful comet. Even if the comet does not survive, tracking its journey will help scientists understand what the comet is made of, how it reacts to its environment, and what this explains about the origins of the solar system. Closer to the sun, watching how the comet and its tail interact with the vast solar atmosphere can teach scientists more about the sun itself.

Comet ISON Passes Through Virgo

Date: 8 Nov 2013 – Comet ISON shines in this five-minute exposure taken at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on Nov. 8, 2013.. The image was captured using a color CCD camera attached to a 14" telescope located at Marshall. At the time of this picture, comet ISON was 97 million miles from Earth, moving ever closer toward the sun. Credit: NASA/MSFC/Aaron Kingery ——– More details on Comet ISON: Comet ISON began its trip from the Oort cloud region of our solar system and is now travelling toward the sun. The comet will reach its closest approach to the sun on Thanksgiving Day — 28 Nov 2013 — skimming just 730,000 miles above the sun’s surface. If it comes around the sun without breaking up, the comet will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere with the naked eye, and from what we see now, ISON is predicted to be a particularly bright and beautiful comet. Catalogued as C/2012 S1, Comet ISON was first spotted 585 million miles away in September 2012. This is ISON’s very first trip around the sun, which means it is still made of pristine matter from the earliest days of the solar system’s formation, its top layers never having been lost by a trip near the sun. Comet ISON is, like all comets, a dirty snowball made up of dust and frozen gases like water, ammonia, methane and carbon dioxide — some of the fundamental building blocks that scientists believe led to the formation of the planets 4.5 billion years ago. NASA has been using a vast fleet of spacecraft, instruments, and space- and Earth-based telescope, in order to learn more about this time capsule from when the solar system first formed. The journey along the way for such a sun-grazing comet can be dangerous. A giant ejection of solar material from the sun could rip its tail off. Before it reaches Mars — at some 230 million miles away from the sun — the radiation of the sun begins to boil its water, the first step toward breaking apart. And, if it survives all this, the intense radiation and pressure as it flies near the surface of the sun could destroy it altogether. This collection of images show ISON throughout that journey, as scientists watched to see whether the comet would break up or remain intact. The comet reaches its closest approach to the sun on Thanksgiving Day — Nov. 28, 2013 — skimming just 730,000 miles above the sun’s surface. If it comes around the sun without breaking up, the comet will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere with the naked eye, and from what we see now, ISON is predicted to be a particularly bright and beautiful comet. ISON stands for International Scientific Optical Network, a group of observatories in ten countries who have organized to detect, monitor, and track objects in space. ISON is managed by the Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences. NASA image use policy. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission. Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook Find us on Instagram

Cliff Collapses on Rosetta Comet

Several sites of cliff collapse on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko were identified during Rosetta’s mission. The yellow arrows mark the fractures where the detachment occurred. The collapsed sections are about 50 feet (15 meters) long for the left-hand section, and 30 feet (9 meters) for the right-hand section. Additional images taken from greater distances suggest the collapse occurred between May and December 2015. The images were taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS camera on Dec. 2, 2014 (left), and March 12, 2016 (right), with resolutions of 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) per pixel and 1 foot (0.3 meters) per pixel, respectively. http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA21564

Observing Comet Siding Spring at Mars

On October 19, Comet Siding Spring will pass within 88,000 miles of Mars – just one third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon! Traveling at 33 miles per second and weighing as much as a small mountain, the comet hails from the outer fringes of our solar system, originating in a region of icy debris known as the Oort cloud. Comets from the Oort cloud are both ancient and rare. Since this is Comet Siding Spring’s first trip through the inner solar system, scientists are excited to learn more about its composition and the effects of its gas and dust on the Mars upper atmosphere. NASA will be watching closely before, during, and after the flyby with its entire fleet of Mars orbiters and rovers, along with the Hubble Space Telescope and dozens of instruments on Earth. The encounter is certain to teach us more about Oort cloud comets, the Martian atmosphere, and the solar system’s earliest ingredients.