Forget any comet watches planned for the morning next week: Comet ISON is undeniably dead (for real!). Four days after seemingly resurrecting after a melting event on Thanksgiving, Comet ISON is dead for a second time, this time permanently. The latest videos from the SOHO solar observatory are showing Comet ISON to be no more than just a cloud of dissipating dust.
So, what exactly happened?
According to Spaceweather.com, after having a few days to examine the imagery, experts are starting to come come to a consensus. The opinion: Comet ISON actually disintegrated before perihelion. The reasoning: the comet's brightness dipped quite noticeably before perihelion as seen by the SOHO camera. After perihelion, Comet ISON appeared dimmer than ever before, only to brighten afterward. Scientific consensus: the comet that emerged from perihelion was really no more than a gravitationally-bound rubble pile.
Sad end for the once-proclaimed 'comet of the century.'
Both astronomers and the general public went abuzz over Comet ISON thanks to a prediction released a year ago by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) that stated that the comet could reach magnitude -11.6, or about as bright as the Full Moon. Additionally, besides being shadow-casting bright at night, the comet would be bright enough to easily be spotted during broad daylight. If Comet ISON were to become this bright, it would not be a first, but it would still be the astronomical event of the year should the JPL's prediction come true.
See also: the brightest comets in history
In the end, none of this matters, Comet ISON is undeniably gone for good, so cancel any planned observing in the morning.
As always, would-be comet watchers in the Cleveland area should be sure to keep an eye on the Cleveland weather forecast and, for hour-by-hour cloud predictions, the Cleveland Clear Sky Clock. Live somewhere else? Find a clock and see if it will be clear near you.
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