Has Comet ISON disintegrated? Rumors are flying in the astronomical community. Read more about ISON’s possible disintegration here.
This isn’t Comet ISON. It’s Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, a periodic comet that orbits the sun on a vastly shorter timeframe than ISON, only 5.3 years. This comet is in the process of disintegrating. It was observed to break into fragments as it entered the inner part of the solar system in 2006, as it encountered the sun’s fierce heat, much as ISON is encountering it now.
This comet brings with it some good news, however. Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 is a parent body of a meteor shower – the Tau Herculids – seen from Earth. If Comet ISON breaks up, will we see the meteor shower predicted by some for January 2014?
Schwassmann–Wachmann was estimated to have an original core diameter of 1,100 meters, by the way. What is ISON’s core diameter? Totally unknown, but it might be comparable.
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.