September 16, 2013

What if Comet ISON breaks apart?

With the Sun's disk almost completely devoid of sunspots, solar flare activity has come to a halt. Measurements by NOAA's GOES 15 satellite show that the sun's global x-ray emission, a key metric of solar activity, has flatlined.

The quiet spell is a bit strange because 2013 is supposed to be a year of solar maximum, with lots of flares and sunspots.

Supporting this view are data from NASA-supported observatories which show that the sun's magnetic field is poised to flip - a long-held sign that Solar Max has arrived. Nevertheless, solar activity is low.

One possible explanation is that Solar Max is double-peaked and we are in the valley between peaks. If so, solar activity could surge again in late 2013-2014. No one can say for sure, though. Researchers have been studying sunspots for more than 400 years, and we still cannot predict the behavior of the solar cycle. Continued quiet or stormy space weather? Both are possible in the weeks and months ahead.

Comet ISON photographed on September 12, 2013.

Comet ISON is due to make its spectacular appearance beginning November 2013 as it begins its close approach and whiplash around the sun at just 0.012AU (~1.1-million kilometers above the solar surface).

During the approach to the sun, the comet, or it’s tail will not be in earth’s path.This leaves a trailing ‘rain’ of comet dust, particles, and ‘matter’ behind in space.

During January, NASA calculated that comet ISON at that time was ejecting 122,000 tons of ‘matter’ every minute from its tail! The closer it gets to the sun, the more ‘matter’ is ejected…

But what would happen if Comet ISON hit the Sun?

(Note: we have zero historical or modern record of any comet, ever, on a sun-striking orbit; this is all just hypothetical.) One of the more fascinating conclusions is that "in the case of impacts by the most massive comets (1020g or so) the cometary flare energy release (2×1035erg) is much larger than that of the largest solar flares ever observed. An impact of this magnitude would have very significant terrestrial effects."

The "cometary flare" would need to be Earth-directed. This Earth-threatening scenario is theoretically possible but for most plausible situations, a comet will be destroyed before it reaches the Sun's surface.

But what would happen if Comet ISON survives the Sun?

If it survives the sun, and many believe that it stands a good chance, it will streak rapidly back outwards in the general direction towards earth, and ISON will make its closet physical approach to us on December 26.

After ISON has sailed past us, earth will pass through the comet’s particle trail (the one when it was approaching the sun on its inbound leg,) and this will happen on or around January 12 – 15, 2014.

This is remarkable. ISON will have left the trail of debris on or close to November 1, at the spot where earth will transit mid January, just 10 to 11 weeks later.

NASA says that the space dust will be too small to affect us badly…

What about this… 

1. ‘What if’ Comet ISON hits the sun and the “cometary flare” is Earth directed.

2. 'What if' Solar Activity surge again just as ISON begins its close approach and whiplash around the sun.

Note: Coronal mass ejections (which are different to flares) happen a few times per day, every day during periods of high solar activity. The chances are pretty high that we'll see at least one CME in the hours surrounding ISON's perihelion passage in November of this year.

This can have an impact on Ison?

3. 'What if' the comet breaks apart, the nucleus of the comet explodes into smaller chunks as it swings around the sun?

Experts say the comet won't threaten Earth. In fact, even if it breaks up.

4, 'What if' the chunks survive, on what trajectory will they be?

Could we be in danger? Of course no one knows. It hasn’t happened… yet.

Via and special thanks to: modernsurvival.blog.com , cnn.com , cometison.news.com , isoncampaign.org , spaceweather.com

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