ISON comet to unleash a spectacular ‘Deepavali’ in the sky

All eyes are on the Comet/2012 S1, popularly known as ISON, which is expected to pass the Sun in the intervening night of Thursday and Friday. Scientists describe the encounter as “a spectacular Deepavali in the sky”.

The comet was named after the International Scientific Optical Networks (ISON) used last year by two Russian astronomers to find the unusual visitor.

Origin

The comet is believed to be from the Oort cloud located at the edge of the solar system, beyond which there is little for the eye to see and mind to comprehend.

A couple of days back, the comet was found moving towards the Sun at a speed of 64,000 kmph, which rose to 2.5 lakh kmph now, understandably due to the Sun’s gravitational force.

It is expected to go as close as a million kilometres from the surface of the Sun. The temperature at the nearest approach (Perehelion) of ISON to the ‘ball of fire’ will be as high as 2000 degrees centigrade. The comet contains millions of icy and rocky pieces and hence its fate after the encounter is of academic interest. While most comets disintegrate at such huge temperatures, this one is expected to move towards the earth later, giving a feast to the eyes for around 10 days. “It is a pleasure to watch the comet at the eastern horizon during sunrise or at the northwest after sunset. The chance of visibility is much lower in Tirupati, as the city is surrounded by hill ranges,” says R. Manigandan, project coordinator of the Regional Science Centre, Tirupati (RSCT). It can be seen with the naked eye, but he cautioned viewers to adopt safety methods while staring at the sun directly.

To create awareness on the spectacular event, the RSC is organising sky observation and also a series of lectures. S. Vijayabhaskara Rao, a professor of physics at SVU will speak on ‘Comet of the century’ on November 29 (Friday), while K. Vanadeep from the Department of Astrophysics and Ecology at SV Vedic University will deliberate on ‘Comet: A surprise package from cosmos’ on December 3 (Tuesday). For details contact 0877-228 6202.

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