Skip to main content

The life and death- and life, and death (or at least, excuse the pun, coma) of a 'zombie comet'

Yesterday I reported the fiery death of Comet ISON. Here's view from NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft that formed the basis of that judgment:

There seems to be no evidence of a nucleus emerging from the back of the sun. Debris, yes; nucleus, no. The consensus of NASA scientists was that ISON had bought the celestial farm.

On that basis, yesterday I reported that ISON was essentially kaput. Here's a still picture I posted yesterday from SOHO's LASCO-C2 camera. An arrow points to what I was trying for quite a while to convince myself was ISON emerging. But there was a problem, that didn't dawn on me until the next morning: the tail of a comet is created by the solar wind blowing outward. As a result, the tails of comets always point away from the sun.

We were dealing, not with a comet, but with a debris field.

But new hope arose yesterday when NASA released these videos from SOHO:

And from another camera:

Note that the tail is behaving exactly as a comet's tail should.

You know, come to think of it, that looks like the same shot which formed the basis of NASA's death certificate on Thanksgiving Day, except that it goes on a bit longer. Apparently for some reason it just took some extra time to brighten enough to be identifiable as a surviving nucleus.

Sadly, here's the latest from SOHO:

ISON is dying again. Or at least fading badly. It may yet survive, but at best will be only an ordinary comet, observable by the naked eye only from dark locations.


Popular posts from this blog

Jan Chamberlain's rhetoric is too strong. But the stand she has taken is right.

I do not share the religion of Jan Chamberlain. I don't even pray to the same god. But I can't help but admire the integrity of the woman who quit the Mormon Tabernacle Choir rather than sing at Donald Trump's inauguration.

Ms. Chamberlain, like me, voted for Evan McMullin in November. Like me, she holds no brief for Hillary Clinton or her agenda. But she cannot, as she put it, "throw roses at Hitler."

As I've said before, comparing Trump to Hitler strikes me as harsh. I believe that Trump is a power-hungry narcissist who exhibits disturbing signs of psychopathy, like Hitler. Like Hitler, he has stigmatized  defenseless minorities- Muslims and undocumented aliens, rather than Jews- and made them scapegoats for the nation's troubles. Like Hitler, he has ridden a wave of irrational hatred and emotion to power. Like Hitler's, his agenda foreshadows disaster for the nation he has been chosen to lead.

But he's not going to set up death camps for Musli…

Neither Evan McMullin nor his movement are going away

Evan McMullin has devoted most of his post-college life- even to the point of foregoing marriage and a family- to fighting ISIS and al Qaeda and our nation's deadliest enemies as a clandestine officer for the CIA. He has done so at the risk of his life.

He has seen authoritarianism in action close-up. One of his main jobs overseas was to locate and facilitate the elimination of jihadist warlords. Evan McMullin knows authoritarians.

And when he looks at Donald Trump, what he sees is an authoritarian like the ones he fought overseas. He knows Donald Trump. After leaving the CIA he served as policy director for the Republican majority in the United States House of Representatives. He tells about his first encounter with The Donald in that role in this opinion piece he wrote for today's New York Times.

In fact, when Mitt Romney and Tom Coburn and all the others who were recruited to run as a conservative third-party candidate against Trump and Hillary Clinton backed out,  McMulli…

Huzzah! Once again, 45 does something majorly right!

First. he appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and now 45 has- at long last- initiated a sensible space policy, with a plan to promote a "rapid and affordable" return to the moon carried out by private enterprise by 2020.  Afterward, it will be onward to Mars and beyond.

This is a great idea for three reasons. First, private enterprise is the future of space exploration, and as far as I know we will be the first spacefaring nation to put most of its eggs in that basket. Second, it's nice to have eggs! Since the Obama administration canceled the Constellation program to develop the Ares booster and the Orion crew vehicle (though it subsequently reinstated the Orion part of the program), the United States has been twiddling its thumbs while China has taken great leaps toward the moon and other countries- including Russia, India, and Japan- have to various degrees intensified their own space programs. It would be both tragic and foolhardy for the nation which first…