It has a tail. It will do what it wants to.
September 25, 2012 3:20 PM   Subscribe

A comet has been discovered and we may get to see it. If it doesn't boil away first, we'll be able to see it November 29th, 2013, give or take a day. Lots of back-slapping on the comet email list. (Via.)
posted by univac (30 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
If it doesn't boil away first, we'll be able to see it November 29th, 2013...

Please don't boil away! That's my wedding anniversary!!!
posted by Thorzdad at 3:24 PM on September 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


that comet yahoo group is the greatest yahoogroup ever. the signal to noise ratio is extremely high.

don't forget C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS as well:

the next bright comet
posted by joeblough at 3:25 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: 30% chance of awesome, 60% chance of that being wrong
posted by chavenet at 3:27 PM on September 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


I thought several new comets were spotted per year. Why is this one especially noteworthy?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:32 PM on September 25, 2012


This is the one that Heaven's Gate should have been waiting for.
posted by perhapses at 3:34 PM on September 25, 2012


Metafilter: 30% chance of awesome, 60% chance of that being wrong

10% chance of . . . ?
posted by stopgap at 3:36 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I thought several new comets were spotted per year. Why is this one especially noteworthy?

We might be able to see it from Earth without telescopes. That doesn't happen very often.
posted by stopgap at 3:37 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


right - yeah. they can calculate the orbit of a comet by watching it for a little while, thus predicting that it will pass very near the sun.

this new comet seems to have an orbit that's very, very similar to one of the great comets of history, so people are getting excited that it could put on a similar show.
posted by joeblough at 3:58 PM on September 25, 2012


Time to stock up on fireproof doors and fire extinguishers.
posted by Slackermagee at 3:58 PM on September 25, 2012


stopgap: "Metafilter: 30% chance of awesome, 60% chance of that being wrong

10% chance of . . . ?
"

wendell.
posted by mullingitover at 4:10 PM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


But Im supposed to have sex with the projectionist that night.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:18 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's my wedding anniversary!!!

The 30th is my 50th. Sweet!
posted by dhartung at 4:24 PM on September 25, 2012


Melancholia? Huh. That's a strange name for a comet.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:24 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


We might be able to see it from Earth without telescopes.

...during the day, which is even rarer. Comet McNaught (C2006 P1, also known as the Great Comet of 2007) was visible during the day between January 11-13th, 2007, with an apparent magnitude of -5.5, which is brighter than Venus at its brightest*. For the norther hemisphere, that was about it, after passing the sun, C/2006 P1 turned south, so it rapidly disappeared from the northern hemisphere's sky, but turned into an amazing show for those in the southern hemisphere.

Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) has a very well known orbit, thanks to "precovery" images. Precovery is when you get a rough orbit determined, then look back in images where you think the object would be. They found C/2012 S1 unnoticed in an image from December, 2011, which gave them a nice set of datapoints over 18 months, so they have a very solid set of orbital parameters. But this comet is going to get very close to the Sun, and may not survive.

We'll see -- or, actually, we won't see, but that'll tell us it didn't survive perihelion.


* Venus, at its brightest, is also visible in the daylight sky, if you know exactly where to look. Typically anything brighter than -4.5 is visible even in daylight.

** In case you're wondering, the comet is named by the discovers, defined as first to contact the Minor Planet Center with a sighting that's later confirmed. If the telegrams (former) or emails arrive nearly at the same time, the comet may gain a dual name, see Comet Hale-Bopp (C/1995 01, AKA The Great Comet of 1997.) With modern scientific instruments, we're discovering vastly more comets, and when they are discovered by one of those, the name of the instrument is used, thus ISON (International Scientific Optical Network) and PANSTARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) SOHO, (The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) has discovered hundreds of sungrazer comets.

Comet designations are complex. P/ means a periodic comet, C/ is an unknown periodic or aperiodic comet, X/ are historical where that can't be determined, and D/ are comets that have been lost or were observed to disintegrate. The next four numbers are the year of discovery, after that, a letter indicating what half-month the discovery was (so A is the first half of January, C the first of February, you skip I, and Y is the last half of December) and then a sequence number.

So, ISON C/2012 S1 is the first comet, of unknown period or known to be aperiodic, discovered in the first half of September, by the ISON project.

Confirmed periodic comets, after the second observed passage, gain a simple sequence number. Comet 1P/Halley is the famous Comet Halley, and the most recent one to jump to the confirmed periodic list is 211P/LINEAR. Comets with P/YYYY L# have periodic orbits, but only one observed passage.
posted by eriko at 4:27 PM on September 25, 2012 [12 favorites]


The best comet ever is one that was visible when I was a kid, but I can't remember the year or the name so I have no idea what comet it was. In retrospect, it was probably an ordinary comet, visible to the naked eye, but not unprecedentedly so. What makes it so great is that, due to a combination of being very young, time, and having seen many pictures of comets since then, I have a clear, but completely impossible, memory of it looming gigantic in the sky like a scene two thirds of the way through Deep Impact complete with swirling flame like clouds surrounding it.

Sure, all those adults who saw it probably have a more accurate recollection, but I've got this awesome memory of being five years old, sitting on a beach at Jordan Lake, and staring into the face of the apocalypse.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:40 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I still remember Hale-Bopp, back in the 90s. We could see it from our yard in sky-polluted Watertown, MA, but when we drove out to darker skies it was simply amazing. It was the only comet I'd ever seen. I may have seen Hyakutake but I have no memory of it.

I would love to get a chance to see something like that again.
posted by bondcliff at 5:56 PM on September 25, 2012


univac: "If it doesn't boil away first"

Damned global warming has gone off-planet. Maybe it'll make Mars habitably warm next.
posted by adamrice at 6:16 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmm, if global warming goes off-planet, I don't think it's global warming anymore.
posted by Malor at 6:38 PM on September 25, 2012


Fred Whipple, who developed the "dirty snowball" theory among many accomplishments, would be thrilled.
posted by carmicha at 7:16 PM on September 25, 2012


I can't remember the year or the name ....... I've got this awesome memory of being five years old, sitting on a beach at Jordan Lake, and staring into the face of the apocalypse.

Comet year = your birth year + 5. Wonder if it was that bright 1996 comet.
posted by crapmatic at 7:31 PM on September 25, 2012


10% chance of . . . ?

the return of the dragons
posted by elizardbits at 7:42 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Comet year = your birth year + 5. Wonder if it was that bright 1996 comet.

I was using five kind of figuratively. I might have been five, I might have been eight. I'm bad at remembering when things happened.

I was born in 1983, for the record.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:11 PM on September 25, 2012


10% chance of . . . ?

triffids
posted by hattifattener at 8:13 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


But Im supposed to have sex with the projectionist that night.

DMK
posted by davejay at 8:23 PM on September 25, 2012


I was born in 1983, for the record.

Halley's Comet came by in 1986. I vaguely remember being taken outside to look at it when I was a kid, but I don't remember actually seeing it.
posted by stopgap at 8:24 PM on September 25, 2012


Halley's Comet came by in 1986.

It was, for most, a lousy appearance. Low and dim. I saw it from the top of Sauratown Mountain in North Carolina, very low on the southern horizon.

The late 90's, though, had two winners, Comet Hyakutake (C/1996 B2) and Comet Hale Bop (C/1995 O1). Note that Hale-Bopp was discovered months before Hyakutake, even though its brightest appearance was over a year after Hyakutake.

Hale-Bopp will be hard to beat. Visible to the naked eye for over 18 months, brighter than magnitude 0 for eight weeks. We call Hyakutake the Great Comet of 1996 and McNaught the Great Comet of 2007, but neither held a candle to The Great, Amazing, SNAP INTO A SLIM JIM, OOH YEAH!!! AWESOMO POWAR!! A WINNER IS YOU!1! Comet of 2007, Hale-Bopp.


I can't remember the year or the name ....... I've got this awesome memory of being five years old, sitting on a beach at Jordan Lake, and staring into the face of the apocalypse.

....I was born in 1983, for the record.


1983+5->8 puts the time frame as 1988-1992. By far the most likely comet would have C/1990 K1 (originally 1990 c, then 1990 XX in the older notations) Comet Levy. here's a preview of a 1990 article from New Scientist

We can even tell you when you were by the lake -- late August 1990, probably the nights of the 25th to 27th. This report puts the brighest period as also August 25th to 27th, at magnitude 3.1. In even a suburban sky of the time, that would have been visible, in anything rural, it would have been quite noticible.

So, yeah, good enough for me. As a child, you were looking at Comet Levy (C/1990 K1).
posted by eriko at 6:29 AM on September 26, 2012


eriko, that's cool, thanks. I'm going to assume it was Comet Levy. I figured it wasn't Halley's because in '86 I was pretty young and I don't really have memories from that age; also, I would have seen it from fairly close to where you were (this was Jordan Lake in NC) so I'm guessing it wasn't a good viewing there, even through the lens of youth and time.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:43 AM on September 26, 2012


10% chance of . . . ?

Math.
posted by mrgoat at 1:23 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I never thought I needed to know what those numbers in front of a comet meant. Now, thanks to eriko, I know. And I just can't wait for the opportunity to show off this knowledge at a party to pop up organically.

10% chance of . . . ?

Tentacle Dance?
posted by chemoboy at 3:08 PM on September 26, 2012


I remember Hale-Bopp back in 1997. It was amazing!

I also remember that Armageddon and Deep Impact came out the following year, and though they were about asteroids and not comets, they were both clear ripoffs of an episode of The Simpsons, entitled "Bart's Comet," which was about a comet.

The kicker: That episode aired several months before Hale-Bopp was even discovered.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:24 PM on September 26, 2012


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