KSSP is spreading awareness of the comet in schools

Comet ISON is coming tantalisingly close to the sun, and astronomers everywhere are busy making calculations of the impact the rendezvous will have on life on earth. An excited Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP) is launching a series of campaigns in schools in the State to help children observe, and learn more about, the celestial visitor.

In India, the comet will be visible to the naked eye in the early-morning sky in November and December.

Comets, composed of ice and dust and travelling through the solar system, are often compared to dusty snowballs. Almost all comets spend most of their lives in the Oort Cloud, an icy region beyond the reaches of Pluto, A. Papputty, former Professor of the Department of Physics, Government College, Madappally, and former president of the parishad, told The Hindu.

Occasionally during their lives, they will be catapulted around the sun, where the solar heat turns the dust and ice into a gaseous cloud, creating a tail that streams away from the star, he said.

ISON will be visible from October-end to December-end, he added.

ISON, discovered in September 2012 by the Russian astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok, will travel within 1.2 million kilometres above the sun’s surface on November 28. The question on everyone’s mind is how will it respond to the close brush with the sun, Prof. Papputty said.

A meeting of the All India People’s Science Network (AIPSN), a network of people’s science movements in the country, in Ahmedabad recently decided to launch a national-level campaign in connection with the arrival of the comet.

Three national-level training camps were held in Bangalore, Guwahati and Bhopal by August-end in connection with the campaign, close to 50 people being trained in each, he said.

A three-day State-level training camp concluded in Kannur on Saturday and the next camp will be held in Thiruvananthapuram from October 4 to 6, he said.

“We are planning to train a minimum of 2,000 trainees,” Prof. Papputty said.

They will be taught various subjects related to the topic, such as the peculiarities of the comet, the relationship of comets with the solar system and celestial bodies and the significance of developing a scientific temper.

They will organise district-level training programmes and campaigns, in association with the Education Department. The parishad district units will conduct various programmes such as astronomy classes, CD shows, Eureka Sastra Keralam Vijnanotsav and ISON children’s festival in schools.