Comet of the century?
Dr. Ignacio Ferrin, Astronomer from the Institute of Physics of the University of Antioquia, in Medellín, Colombia, has concluded a study of the comet, using the latest observations available. Dr. Ferrin is a researcher and Faculty Member in the Astronomy Program of that Institute. He is a recognized cometary specialist.
“Comet ISON has presented a peculiar behavior”, said Dr. Ferrín. “The light curve has exhibited a “slowdown event” characterized by a constant brightness with no indication of a brightness increase tendency. This slowdown took place around January 13th, 2013. For 132 days after that date and up to the last available observation, the brightness has remained constant”. Thus the astronomer concludes that it is highly unlikely that the comet will be as bright as the full Moon.
This peculiar behavior could possibly be explained if the comet were water deficient, or if a surface layer of rock or non-volatile silicate dust were quenching the sublimation to space.
The strange behavior of comet ISON is reminiscent of what happened to comet C/2002 O4 Hönig who remained with the same brightness for 52 days, after which it disintegrated with no observable residue. It is to be noticed that comet ISON has been in that state for much longer, 132 days and counting. However astronomers do not know what is the current status of the comet, since it has entered the solar glare and it is unobservable.
There is a brief window of observation between October 7th and November 4th, when the comet will be more than 50 degrees from the Sun. The scientist add that even so the observational conditions will be difficult to determine what was the fate of the comet.
“The future of comet ISON does not look bright”, Dr. Ferrin conclude.
Many astrobiologists believe that comets could have played a key role in the origin of life by delivering water and other important molecules for living cells to the early Earth. As comets make their way through the inner Solar System, it gives scientists a chance to observe them and study their behavoir and compositions.
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