Nov 28th – Perihelion Day
Well, here we are.
After all the waiting, all the hype, all the build-up, it’s D Day for ISON. Today ISON rounds the Sun, and we will all have front row seats due thanks to the telescopes and space probes being pointed at it. What will happen? Will ISON be destroyed by the Sun? Will it survive its close encounter of the solar kind and emerge from the Sun’s glare and put on a show for us in the sky in a week or so’s time? We can’t know. All bets are off.
All today’s action will take place online, there’ll be nothing to see in the sky, so to follow the drama as it unfolds, you need to be watching several websites very closely and checking them as often as you can. I recommend the following:
Realtime images of the Sun (this SOHO images site is going to get hammered today, so don’t be surprised if you can’t access it sometimes)
I’ll update here as often as I can, and hope you can join me.
It’s going to be a fascinating, frightening, roller coaster of a day. By the end of it we should know if Comet ISON has fallen prey to the Sun, cheating us of the chance of seeing a bright naked eye comet gracing our skies, or if it has survived, and has a chance to go on to become a beautiful sight before sunrise in the next few days.
Good luck Little One..!
And everyone else? Buckle up. This is it.
I’ve been away from my computer all day, but keeping an eye on things through my phone, so I’ve been able to follow ISON’s approach to the Sun. And it’s been an exhilarating, agonising day…
Things started off very positively, with ISON brightening steadily as it sped towards the Sun, and then suddenly its brightness began to rocket. A good sign! Lots of activity! ISON switching on!
Then… a sudden fading…
What NOW?!?!?! An outburst? Or had, as many had predicted would happen, ISON finally collapsed and disintegrated, and what we were seeing was the remains of the nucleus spreading apart?
As I write this ISON’s brightness is still dropping, and it’s about to start its breakneck turn around the Sun. Closest approach to the Sun is in about 90 minutes, and soon it will enter the field of view of the SDO observatory. Then we’ll have a much clearer idea of what’s happening with – or has happened to – the comet. In the meantime, here’s a jazzed up SOHO image of ISON approaching the Sun… look how close it was just a short time ago… This might be one of the last views we get of it, or it might be the curtain raiser to something amazing…
19.00 GMT: Farewell ISON..?
Hate to bring you all bad news, but it is looking very much like Comet ISON has gone.
Images taken as she approached her closest point to the Sun strongly suggest that ISON fragmented, or maybe even disintegrated, while she was still a good hour or so away from perihelion itself. Instead of showing the classic “bright head and tail traileing behind it” they show a sharply pointed, dim front, with brighter material in a broader area behind it, and a thinning tail behind that…
That area circled might be ISON’s nucleus breaking up and spreading apart into a cloud of dusty debris, which was always a possibility.
No-one is sure yet, there are still some optimists urging caution, and ISON has taken a huge delight in fooling us with her wacky and bizarre behaviour several times before today, so there’s still an outside chance we might yet hear a cry of “There she is!” from the SDO team scanning the solar observatory’s images for signs of the comet… but the majority of experts and commentators seem to be agreeing that ISON has gone. And this image, posted just now on Twitter by German astronomy outreacher Daniel Fischer seems to confirm that, as it shows ISON basically fading away to nothing…
So no, it’s not looking good. More later.
21.04: ISON? IS that YOU..???
Oh look at that… it seems we were too quick to start engraving ISON’s headstone..!
New images show something (circled) emerging from the Sun’s glare and pulling away from the Sun…
Wow… it looks like our little snowbird possibly escaped the clutches of the dragon after all…
No idea what this means for those of us hoping desperately to see something beautiful in the sky in the next few days and weeks, it’s way too early to tell, but we’ll be watching this very closely over the next few hours…
All is not lost! ISON has delighted in fooling us and messing with our heads ever since she was discovered. We should have known she’d pull something like this, shouldn’t we..?!