Comet ISON Expected To Pass Into Inner Solar System Thursday

Pieces of the comet ISON may be visible this weekend after it makes a trip around the sun.

Comet ISON shines in this five-minute exposure taken at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center on Nov. 8, 2013.

Photo: Flickr (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Comet ISON shines in this five-minute exposure taken at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center on Nov. 8, 2013.

A comet called ISON will make its first passage into inner solar system on Thanksgiving Day.

The comet was discovered last year by Russian astronomers.

“The unique thing about it is that this is what we call a sun grazer,” says Butler University Astronomy Professor Brian Murphy. “This is going to pass just barely above the solar surface, so it will be heated to pretty high temperatures.”

Murphy says that means there is no telling what will come out on the other side of the sun.

“It won‘t fall into the sun because the sun is putting out so much radiation, and the path of this thing is well calculated,” says Murphy. “It‘s just the shear closeness that means we can‘t make exact predictions.”

Murphy says the comet has unusually high carbon dioxide content, in part because it is new to our solar system.

“It‘s made up of water — ice and carbon dioxide — dry ice basically, and dust. So, whether it breaks up or survives — comes out the other side, that will give us our clues as to whether we will see an early December comet in our skies,” he says.

Murphy says whatever is left of ISON should be visible from the earth sometime on Sunday. Looking directly at the sun as the comet passes could cause eye damage, but you can watch ISON’s passage at nasa.gov.

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  • http://www.sullivansolarpower.com/ Sullivan Solar Power

    This is going to pass just barely above the solar surface, so it will be heated to pretty high temperatures.

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