This is a follow-up post on Comet ISON. Read the first post here.
Is it all over for Comet ISON? What does remain after perihelion, a dust cloud, a fragment, a smudge on the Hubble? Maybe….
While it didn’t live up to the hype of “comet of the century” (which was promoted in the popular press, not the scientific community) the demise of Comet ISON may be premature.
ISON’s fate is still uncertain, but that’s not stopping the emotional outpourings all over the internet, especially Twitter.
I too have been cheering on the comet, “Go, comet, go!” and “ISON, thanks for the ride!”
Yes, people felt, and still feel, a connection. They had to say something–from humor, “Rest in Pieces” and “Breaking up is hard to do” to Monty Python “Dead Comet” jokes, the poetry of Rumi, comparisons with mythical Icarus who dared to fly too close to the sun.
This only adds to the shared experience of Comet ISON.
The information about comets and the sun itself gathered from observing the journey of ISON is unprecedented. Never before (at least in recorded history) has there been a chance to observe a sungrazing, Oort cloud comet!
Maybe this is why ordinary people feel a need to put ISON in human terms. Never before have we had such a connection through social media to exchange information, questions, comments, and poetry. Never before have we shared this kind of experience. Sometimes, you have to say something.
Astrophysicist Karl Battams has been following ISON and posting updates on his Twitter feed, @SungrazerComets. Because of so many responses, he felt the need for some sense of closure. He has writtten a eulogy for ISON on his blog.
Written in classic obituary style, it is loving and funny, a fitting tribute to a comet, and that incredible journey. You can read it here.
(There are posts and comments on this eulogy, too, of course. The Register did a fine review. The Huffington Post and NPR, among others, also had something to say. You can find them online if you are interested.)
ISON is a true original–and a comet for this century–a star on social media! I don’t think it matters that ISON may not be the great comet we all hoped for. I think the wonder of this shared experience will continue to inspire people, much as the sight of a great comet would.
And, if you are so inspired, there is a comet, another Comet Lovejoy, in the sky right now. It is too faint to see without binoculars or a small telescope, but you can look for it in the predawn sky around 5 – 5:30 a.m. – if you have a good view of north-northeast.
Curious about exploring the night sky? Clear, cold winter nights are good for skywatching. See what’s going on at the Adler Planetarium, too.
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