Hey Space Placers!
Comet ISON has been the topic of conversation lately for astronomers and fringe elements as well. Of course the biggest question is what kind of show will the comet put on in the sky. The simple answer is we just do not know and all things considered, probably won't know until the comet draws "oohhs and ahhhs" or disappointment.
What we DO know is that the comet is heading for a super close rendezvous with the Sun on Thanksgiving Day at a mere 730,000 miles above the surface of our star. It will be subjected to immense gravitational forces and 5,000 degrees F. Tough for anything to survive such conditions but comets have done it in the past.
In Denver, Colorado yesterday there was a paper presented that provided details of research done on Comet ISON using the Hubble Space Telescope. The big news to me is that the nucleus of the comet - the solid body made up of ice, dust, frozen gases and other components, is presenting just one side of itself to the Sun. The researchers believe that when Comet ISON gets closer than Mercury the dark side of the nucleus may end up releasing "huge outbursts of material" which should make the comet bright.
Read More About It: http://www.psi.edu/news/press-releases
Another paper presented discussed whether Comet ISON would survive the encounter with the Sun. Using numerical simulations and past history of sun grazing comets the research team wrote "ISON appears likely to survive the combination of mass loss due to sublimation and
tidal disruption for most plausible scenarios." Read More About It: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1309.2288v1.pdf
There has been other researchers saying the Comet ISON will not survive. The bottom line is that we will not know until when, and if, Comet ISON reappears. Solar observing spacecraft will be watching the comet when it is too close to the Sun for ground based observers to see it which will give us a ringside seat to the comet-Sun encounter.
Amateur astronomers are observing the comet in the pre-dawn sky using telescopes that are in the 8-inch aperture range. The comet has been photographed with a 3-inch telescope. Observers are looking for it using binoculars.
I myself hope to see it this weekend in my 10-inch if the weather clears here in Virginia. A photo session may follow as well to add to my collection of comet shots.
All of this research is vital to our study of comets AND the birth of the solar system as well because Comet ISON is a pristine primordial comet from the Oort Cloud - the vast spherical shell that contains trillions of comets - that has never been exposed to the Sun before. Such a rare opportunity must be taken advantage of and astronomers are doing so.
We'll see what happens as it happens. I'm looking forward to it.