Comet ISON heads for a holiday encounter with the sun
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 01:34
Nov. 26 - Comet ISON, which is billions of years old, is expected to travel around the sun on Thanksgiving day and scientists are anxiously waiting to see if it will remain intact. Colette Luke reports.
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Comet ISON is expected to travel around the sun on Thanksgiving Day, but its survival is in question.
The comet is expected to pass just about 684,000 miles from the sun's surface. It will be traveling 234 miles per second and heat up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit or 2,760 degrees Celsius.
Comet ISON is ten times bigger than the only comet that has survived its trip around the sun - Comet Lovejoy - so some scientists say the chances of its survival look good.
If Comet ISON survives, experts say there will be a bright show in the sky starting the 1st of December at dawn, slowly, visibly rising. It will be seen near the Big Dipper on December 17th.
If it doesn't survive, the comet's ice will vaporize as well as its metal and rock.
But NASA Scientist Dr. Michelle Thaller, said this could help scientists learn more about the solar system and the buildings blocks that formed the Earth billions of years ago.
(SOUNDBITE)(English) NASA SCIENTIST DR. MICHELLE THALLER SAYING:
"If it actually crumbles into pieces, in some ways that's better for scientists because we will be able to see inside the comet and see what the chemistry is like and that's the whole point. This is a preserved bit of the early solar system and we really want to know what conditions were like four and a half billion years ago."
The comet was discovered in September 2012 by two astronomers using the Russian International Scientific Optical Network, which the name ISON comes from.
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