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5 Things You Should Know about Comet ISON – The Countdown, Episode 36

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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If you live in the U.S., chances are good you’ll be munching on turkey tomorrow in celebration of Thanksgiving. But millions of miles above your head, Comet ISON will make its closest pass to the sun. It’s still a big question mark what will happen next: ISON could be torn apart by the sun’s gravity. Or, it could escape with nothing more than a sunburn and begin the return journey to its celestial birthplace in the Oort Cloud. If ISON does cheat death, the best earth-bound viewing will likely be in the next several weeks, once the comet has completed its solar flyby. Sophie Bushwick has all of the other important bits about ISON in our latest episode of The Countdown.

UPDATE 7/28: According to NASA, ISON did not survive its voyage around the sun, disappearing from the view of the Solar Dynamics Observatory before making its closest approach. This is the sixth thing you should know about Comet ISON.

UPDATE 7/29: New images from the European Space Agency and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory suggest that some portion of ISON may have survived. Stay tuned.

More to explore:

Comet from the Oort Cloud Careens toward the Sun (Scientific American)

Stunning Comet ISON Photos Captured by Amateur Astronomer (

The Comet ISON Toolkit (NASA)


Host/writer: Sophie Bushwick
Story advisors: Clara Moskowitz & Michael Moyer
Editor: Joss Fong
Producer: Eric R. Olson


About the Author: Eric is multimedia journalist and producer who specializes in science and natural history. His work has appeared on the websites of Scientific American, Nature, Nature Medicine, Popular Science, Slate and The New York Times among many others. He is a former video producer & editor for Scientific American. Follow on Twitter @EricROlson.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. sauIt 9:38 pm 11/27/2013

    The accumulation of CO2 in our atmosphere will pull more CO2-laden comets from the Oort Cloud, and towards the Sun. The massive delivery of CO2 will cause out-of-control solar warming, frying us to a cinder. We’re toast.

    Link to this

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