Comet Elenin passed its perihelion – or closest point to the sun – on September 10, 2011 and yet most of us forgot to check on it then because, well, what was there to check on? By that time, Elenin was already disintegrating, as some comets do near the sun.
So, for everyone who has asked, no, Comet Elenin is still NOT on a collision course with Earth. Neither are any of its pieces because, when a comet disintegrates, the pieces stay in the comet’s original orbit. Plus … Comet Elenin still shows NO signs of being or becoming a spaceship leading Planet X or Nibiru toward a collision with us. And no three days of darkness are expected around September 26, 2011 (“Will Bible Prophecy Be Fulfilled?”) as Elenin passes between us and the sun. Elenin is NOT now, and never was, going to pass between us and the sun, and, even if it did, Elenin’s nucleus or core (the part that could do any shading) at its largest was only a few kilometers wide. That’s in contrast to 1,391,980 kilometers for the sun’s diameter.
Elenin block out the sun? That’s like a mote of dust blocking out a headlight of your car.
What is Comet Elenin then? It’s just a comet, like millions of other comets, a fragile ball of ices and dust leftover from the formation of our sun and planets. As mentioned above, Elenin apparently isn’t even substantial enough to have survived its closest passage to our sun on September 10. It began disintegrating a few weeks before perihelion, in fact.
So why the hype? You got me.
Russian astronomer Leonid Elenin discovered this comet less than a year ago – on December 10, 2010 – while using International Scientific Optical Network’s robotic observatory in Nw Mexico. As Hank Campbell wrote on Science 2.0 earlier today:
… immediately weirdos began blaming it for earthquakes, storms on Saturn and predicting it would flip Earth’s magnetic field – despite it being really small and twice as far as the sun.
Why the hype? People can’t (or won’t) do basic math. Since it was then 1/100,000,000,000th the mass of the moon and wouldn’t be even 90 moon-Earth distances (22 million miles) from us, it might exert 1/100,000,000,000,000th the force of the moon’s tidal pull on Earth. Essentially, nothing, unless the gravitational effect of a speck of dust on your car is a concern.
The only thing left to say about Comet Elenin at this point is … darn. Sadly to say, contrary to what was hoped by some earlier this year, Elenin won’t become a bright comet in our sky. Shortly after its discovery in December 2010, some astronomers thought Elenin could become a bright comet in our sky, a beautiful sight to see. By May 2011, NASA’s Don Yeomans told us at EarthSky that the comet looked “wimpy.” It continued to fade, and finally disintegrated, leaving it as a visible object only to experienced astronomers with amateur or professional equipment. At its brightest in early September, it was only 10th magnitude. That’s out of range for all but experienced skywatchers.
Bottom line: Comet Elenin is not a spacecraft leading Niburu. It is not on a collision course with Earth. It will not bring about three days of darkness around September 26, 2011. It’s just an ordinary comet, like millions of others. It appeared to begin disintegrating shortly before its closest passage to the sun on September 10. It is too faint to see, unless you are an experienced observer with optical aid.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.