SkyWatch: Comet ISON hurtles past Mars

That brilliant expatriate astrophotographer Terry Hancock, from the DownUnder Observatory in Fremont, Michigan and his collaborator, attorney Clifford Spohn of Ohio, have produced a startling image of Comet ISON.

Comet ISON is hurtling towards the Sun for a close pass at the end of November this year. 

It has just passed Mars. 

The Rover Curiosity may soon have a picture of this space wanderer.

Don’t forget: ISON is, after all, a chunk of material that has spent thousands of years in the depths of deep space, where temperatures barely hover above absolute zero, minus 273.2 degrees Celsius.

For eons, the comet has been “soaking up the cold”, so to speak. 

But in late November,  ISON will be moving through the sun’s outer atmosphere, where it will be subjected to temperatures in excess of 555,538 degrees Celcius.

This extreme heat could cause the comet’s 4.8 kilometre nucleus to break apart into several pieces to produce a spectacular show for us here on our ­lonely blue planet.

 We must wait, but while we wait these admirable amateur astronomers in Michigan and Ohio tantalise us with images of the celestial interloper.

Comet ISON, come on down.

BOY PHARAOH HOLDS COMET SECRET

The treasures of dynasty pharaoh Tutankhamen were first discovered by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in 1922 when they uncovered his tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

 Among the gold, jewels and statues was a spectacular brooch, which contains a striking yellow-brown scarab made of a yellow silica glass stone procured from the sand of the Sahara and then shaped and polished by ancient craftsmen.

Now scientists have discovered that the glass was originally formed 28 million years ago, when an ancient comet entered the earth’s ­atmosphere above Egypt slamming into the desert below.

The spectacular impact heating up the sand beneath it to a temperature of about 2000 degrees Celsius.

This heating impact resulted in the formation of a huge amount of the yellow silica glass, which lies scattered over a 6,000 square kilometre area in the Sahara Desert.

As well as the glass, the impact produced microscopic diamonds.

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