Final ISON Update: December 22nd 2013
Well, that’s that then.
The Hubble team have imaged the part of the sky Comet ISON – or what’s left of it – should be in, and have seen nothing. So of there’s anything left of ISON, and not even Hubble can see it, I think it’s safe to finally declare the comet dead and gone.
I’ve been wondering how to mark the end of this adventure. I thought about writing a long, very personal post describing my most exciting/frustrating/disappointing ISON moments, but then something else just came to me, which you can read at the end of this post. I hope at least some of you like it.
So, this is my final post about Comet ISON on this blog. And while I will continue to update the blog with news about Comet Lovejoy – and (I hope you’ll be pleased to hear!) will add new pages for any new comets which come along, with finder charts and observing tips etc – writing anything else about ISON would just be writing for the sake of it.
I would like to say thanks to all of you for following my ISON pages and for supporting this blog. I’ve enjoyed helping many of you find, observe and photograph the comet, and I’ll look forward to observing more comets with you in the future! For the lovely comments – thank you, I have truly appreciated those. For the not-so-lovely ones, well, I’ll not give their writers the satisfaction of seeing their names here. They’re already forgotten. Even though ISON has gone, no doubt I will continue to receive hate mail and abusive comments from the Nibiru crowd and their fellow members of the nutter conspiracy theory community, but that goes with the territory. ( And who knows, maybe by the time the next potentially naked eye comet comes along, and all the craziness begins again, my ban from a certain conspiracy theory forum – which has linked to my blog and whose members have used my images freely – will have been lifted…? But somehow I doubt it. But hello to everyone over there anyway, even their cowardly Admins who didn’t reply to any of my emails. I look forward to reading your Siding Spring-related BS next October… 🙂 )
So… this is the end, my friends, the End… ISON might not have been a Great Comet for skywatchers and stargazers, but it was undoubtedly a great comet for the scientists, we shouldn’t let our disappointment spoil that. The things cometary scientists learned from Comet ISON will advance cometary and planetary astronomy by a giant leap, and we should all be very thankful for that. When the next ISON comes along – and it will, that’s guaranteed – we will all be better prepared for it, amateurs and professionals, thanks to ISON.
But oh, what might have been, eh..?
Dec 22nd 2013
On a dozen frosty dawns I watched for you;
Hauled telescopes and cameras up that icy, muddy track,
A map- and binoculars-stuffed rucksack on my back,
All to get just one more glimpse of you glowing feebly above the trees,
A barely-there faraway flare of green
Far fainter than you should have been…
Others gave up on you, packed their gear away to await the day
Of your solar roller-coaster ride, but I
Kept my faith in you, and every fleeting chance I had to catch
A glimpse of you I grabbed with both cold-numbed hands,
Standing in the castle’s jagged shadows, hunting for your so weak glow
Through gaps in the low scudding clouds…
A week before Perihelion I saw you for the last time –
A hint of lime between twin lines of churning black;
A tiny emerald eye peeping out from the folds
Of the clouds’ dark cloak just long enough for one last photo
To be stolen before fading away –
My loyalty was misplaced, my optimism wasted.
I never saw you again.
Instead of screeching around the Sun and leaping
Triumphantly up into my evening sky you died,
Ripped apart by the corona’s clutching claws,
Leaving only a smear of dust behind,
So thinly-spread and faint now I hear not even Hubble’s
Staring Cyclops eye can find what’s left of you…
The scientists shrugged off your demise;
Already delighted with their shiny data
They still rated you a great comet, happy to pour
Over their charts and graphs like warlocks learning spells,
Their spider scrawl Afrho equations incantations
To solve the Oort’s beyond-ancient mysteries…
But those of us who had dreamed of seeing you
Painted on the sky, who dared imagine a gossamer-trailing firefly
Shining through the golden pre-dawn light
Despaired at the unfairness of it all.
Staring forlornly at SDO’s empty field of view that day
We knew there would be no treasured photographs of you
Cutting the sky in two; no breathless “Look at that..!” sighs
At the sight of your torch-beam tail rising behind the hills;
No stories told in future years of hearing children laughing
With delight as they stared at you That Night
Through a telescope, seeing the ghostly streamers trailing away
From you like ribbons blowing in the wind…
None of those things were ever meant to be.
“ISON” was never destined to be written on that Facebook-debated list
Of Great Comets next to “Lovejoy”, “Halley” and “Hale-Bopp”;
You’re just another “One That Got away”.
No doubt next time a fainter-than-faint smudge is spotted
Moving through the stars we’ll remember what we learned
From you, and thank you.
But today, looking sadly at an empty sunset,
Staring bitterly at the sky where you should have been,
That day seems a long, long way away…
© Stuart Atkinson 2013