Huntsville, AL – The annual Geminid meteor shower will peak on the night of December 13th-14th, 2013. NASA astronomer Bill Cooke, along with Danielle Moser and Rhiannon Blaauw from his team of experts, will be on hand to answer questions via a live web chat on December 13th from 10:00pm until 2:00am CST.
A live Ustream feed of the skies over NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will also be embedded on this page on the night of the chat.
Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – Astronomers have long known that some comets like it hot. Several of the greatest comets in history have flown close to the sun, puffing themselves up with solar heat, before they became naked-eye wonders in the night sky.
Some comets like it hot, but Comet ISON was not one of them.
The much-anticipated flyby of the sun by Comet ISON on Thanksgiving Day 2013 is over, and instead of becoming a Great Comet….
Written by Karen C. Fox
Greenbelt, MD – After several days of continued observations, scientists continue to work to determine and to understand the fate of Comet ISON: There’s no doubt that the comet shrank in size considerably as it rounded the sun and there’s no doubt that something made it out on the other side to shoot back into space.
The question remains as to whether the bright spot seen moving away from the sun was simply debris, or whether a small nucleus of the original ball of ice was still there. Regardless, it is likely that it is now only dust.
Written by Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – In 2007, astronomers were amazed when a solar storm hit Comet Encke. NASA STEREO spacecraft watched as a CME (coronal mass ejection) struck the comet head on and ripped off its tail.
The same thing could be in store for Comet ISON–only worse.
On November 28th, Comet ISON will pass through the sun’s atmosphere, flying little more than a million kilometers above the sun’s surface. It will be ~30 times closer to the sun than Encke was in 2007 and more likely to encounter a ferocious solar storm.
Written by Susan Hendrix
Greenbelt, MD – 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 the comet apart.
And, if it survives all this, the intense radiation and pressure as it flies near to the surface of the sun could destroy it altogether.
Written by Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – What are the odds? On November 18th and 19th not one but two comets will fly by the planet Mercury.
“This is a unique coincidence,” says Ron Vervack an astronomer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab and a member of the science team for NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, “and a golden opportunity to study two comets passing close to the sun.”
Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – Astronomers viewing our solar system’s asteroid belt with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have seen for the first time an asteroid with six comet-like tails of dust. Designated P/2013 P5, the asteroid resembles a rotating lawn sprinkler.
“We were literally dumbfounded when we saw it,” said lead investigator David Jewitt of the University of California at Los Angeles. “Even more amazing, its tail structures change dramatically in just 13 days as it belches out dust. That also caught us by surprise. It’s hard to believe we’re looking at an asteroid.”
Washington, D.C. – Launched on a clear winter day in January 2005, NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft spanned 268 million miles (431 million kilometers) of deep space in 172 days, then reached out and touched comet Tempel 1. The collision between the coffee table-sized impactor and city-sized comet occurred on July 4th, 2005, at 1:52am EDT.
This hyper-speed collision between spaceborne iceberg and copper-fortified, rocket-powered probe was the first of its kind. It was a boon to not only comet science, but to the study of the evolution of our solar system.
Pasadena, CA – After almost 9 years in space that included an unprecedented July 4th impact and subsequent flyby of a comet, an additional comet flyby, and the return of approximately 500,000 images of celestial objects, NASA’s Deep Impact mission has ended.
The project team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, has reluctantly pronounced the mission at an end after being unable to communicate with the spacecraft for over a month. The last communication with the probe was August 8th. Deep Impact was history’s most traveled comet research mission, going about 4.7 billion miles (7.58 billion kilometers).
Pasadena, CA – For 30 years, a large near-Earth asteroid wandered its lone, intrepid path, passing before the scrutinizing eyes of scientists armed with telescopes while keeping something to itself. The object, known as Don Quixote, whose journey stretches to the orbit of Jupiter, now appears to be a comet.
The discovery resulted from an ongoing project coordinated by researchers at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Through a lot of focused attention and a little luck, they found evidence of comet activity, which had evaded detection for three decades.
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