2013 Comet ISON: 'Comet of the Century' to Disappoint During Near-Earth Flyby on December 26?

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By Jenalyn Villamarin | August 2, 2013 4:30 PM EST

Experts and spectators are anticipating the 2013 Comet ISON to be the "Comet of the Century" as it shines brightly comparable to a full moon while making its closest approach to Earth on December 26, 2013. However, astronomer Ignacio Ferrín of the University of Antioquia in Medellín, Colombia claims that Comet ISON may not be an amazing spectacle due to its recent behavior.


Photo credit: Twitter/@mashable

"Comet ISON has presented a peculiar behavior," Ferrín declared in a statement on Monday, July 29. "The light curve has exhibited a 'slowdown event' characterized by a constant brightness, with no indication of a brightness increase tendency. This slowdown took place around January 13th, 2013. For 132 days after that date and up to the last available observation, the brightness has remained constant," the astronomer further added.

Mr Ferrín even cited the Comet C/2002 O4 Hönig appearance in 2003 as an example to compare the Comet ISON's current behavior where the Comet C/2002 O4 Hönig displayed a remarkable glow level for 52 days and then eventually died out. "The future of Comet ISON does not look bright," the astronomer maintains.

However, other scientists still continue to focus on the imminent near-Earth flyby of the 2013 Comet ISON like participating in a meeting held from August 1 to August 2. The scientists' meeting will discuss the plans of how to observe the "Comet of the Century" when it also makes a close approach to the Sun in the late part of November.

At the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) workshop in Laurel, Maryland, the researchers will be sharing what they know and hope to discover about the approaching comet. Interested viewers can catch the live webcast of the workshop from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT at SPACE.com either directly from the workshop homepage or at LiveStream.

"This is an extraordinary event. Comet ISON will help show us what the recipe for building the solar system was." Carey Lisse, head of NASA's Comet ISON Observation Campaign and organizer of the workshop, stated.

The 2013 C/2012 S1 Comet ISON is classified as a sungrazing comet which has the capability to flyby the surface of the Sun's atmosphere while making its closest approach. "It remains difficult to predict exactly how bright the comet will become in November. However, the potential exists for this to be one of the brightest comets of the past century. We encourage observers from around the world to study this fascinating comet," Ms Lisse further added.

Comet ISON is expected to make its closest approach to the Sun on November 28 while the near-Earth flyby will occur on December 26. The viewers are not the only ones excited and gearing up for the rare spectacle but the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as well.

NASA has been organizing an observation campaign including the several on-ground and in-space instruments to observe the 2013 Comet ISON as it travels towards the inner solar system. The space campaign will utilize the space telescopes, ground-based observatories and the balloon program called Balloon Rapid Response for ISON (BRRISON) in examining the comet's composition that could disclose some details about the solar system's early formation.

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