All You Need To Know About Comet ISON

Visible NOW to most people on Earth, without a telescope! Go look now! (if it’s night time).

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So, as a quick notice, you can see Comet ISON right now (if it’s night time right now that is) without the need of a telescope or binoculars or anything. Finding the chart for most people on Earth is below:

So what if you already know where to look, or you’re now prepared to look for it tonight, what now? Well now we fill your brain with awesomeness and knowledge!

  1. ISON will come, and go, and never return to our Solar System again. The comet originally came from the Oort cloud, which surrounds our Solar System entirely, and it’s going to loop around the Sun, say hello to us, then leave and take your favorite shirt with it.
  2. We may be hyping ISON up too much. It’s going to pass really close to the Sun.  Just over 1 million kilometres from the 1.4 million kilometre diameter Sun is so close that the gravity of the sun, or the heat, may tear it to pieces. Those pieces will likely get sucked into the Sun and burn up, none of which will make it back to Earth. Should it stay together, know that the comet itself will also not hit Earth in any way.
  3. Assuming that it survives the approach and departure from the Sun, know that it’s going to be leaving us rather quickly. Moving at a speed of about 600 km PER SECOND. That’s 0.2% light speed!
  4. The coma of ISON is almost 10 times the diameter of Earth. The coma is the gaseous “tail” that you see, and it also surrounds the comet itself too. The actual physically hard part of the comet is a puny 2km across rock.
  5. The “tail” of ISON is 8,000,000 km long. That’s 20 times the distance from the Moon to Earth. It’s also mostly atomically nothing, and almost a complete vacuum. At only 50,000 atoms per cubic centimeter in density. Keep in mind that one cubic centimetre of breathable air on Earth at sea level is 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms, give or take 🙂
  6. If we take all that is ISON, all that has ever left ISON via violent outgassing (read: creating the coma and tail), it was once a chunker. Weighing in at roughly 2.5 billion tons, it was once a massive object, but it’s been travelling for so long and slowly losing mass at such a rate that it’s getting smaller by 3 tons per second. It will take ~25 years at that rate to completely disappear.

Jeff Wilton

Jeff is the founder and owner of Everyday Science Stuff. ESS is a one man operation, with the core belief that all education should be served without crippling debt tuition, without revenue generating ads and without any restrictions of any kind such as paywalls, forced login and account creations, geographical restrictions, and so on.

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