Rare supercomet to outshine moon in 2013

Tuesday, 25 December 2012 - 3:15pm IST | Place: London | Agency: ANI
A rare supercomet is rushing towards the sun from the outer solar system, according to scientists.

A rare supercomet is rushing towards the sun from the outer solar system, according to scientists. Its closest approach to the sun will be in November next year, they said. At its peak, the supercomet known as C/2012 S1 (ISON), may outshine the moon, even by day, according to the New Scientist.

Supercomet ISON / C/2012 S1 YouTube video

When it comes closer to the sun, Timothy Spahr of the Minor Planet Center at Harvard University expects it to put on as good a show as Hale-Bopp did in 1997. ISON, which was first spotted in September, will be making its first trip to the inner solar system, so it could contain volatile gases that other comets, making their umpteenth lap around the sun, have lost.

That will give scientists a pristine glimpse of the material in the outer solar system 4.6 billion years ago, when ISON formed. The year may also see unusual celestial fireworks as a gas cloud with three times Earth's mass is heading towards a supermassive black hole.

The collision won't be visible to the naked eye, but X-ray telescopes will pick up radiation from the shock wave created as the cloud slams into the halo of hot gas around the hole.

As the black hole, called Sagittarius A*, sits a mere 25,000 light years away - on our cosmic doorstep - the crash should provide an unprecedented view of material ploughing into a black hole. It could even offer important clues about what happened 300 years ago, when the black hole was much brighter than now.


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