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Comet Festival Intro (v.1)

Comet ISON is heading for a close encounter with the sun on Thanksgiving Day 2013. Will it survive? The Comet Festival in South Bend, IN, is a community celebration of the comet's uncertain fate. See www.cometfestival.com.

C. Bueter

on 29 October 2013

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Transcript of Comet Festival Intro (v.1)


Image courtesy of Danl DuRall



Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD

Courtesy of Micha Kilburn


Courtesy of Micha Kilburn

Courtesy of Micha Kilburn

Illustration by Dacota Schrader.

See spaceweather.com.

Comet image at Weko Beach
by Bob Skorupa


Sept. 11, 2013

South Bend Science Cafe
Sept. 9, 2013

Aug. 26, 2013

Aug. 19, 2013

Mystery in History
What sungrazing comets
reveal about the sun.
NASA's toolkit
The icy
Comet ISON
is heading for
a close encounter with the
on Thanksgiving Day 2013!
Will the comet survive?
A comet is a chunk of ice and rock and other stuff that is left over from the early formation of the solar system.
A shroud of ejected debris around the nucleus, called a coma, makes the
of the comet.
The NASA EPOXI mission that visited Comet Hartley 2 photographed jets of material ejected from the nucleus where the sun had melted the ice.
The nucleus of Comet ISON may be
only a couple miles across.
The head of a comet may be tens of thousands of miles across. The tails are often millions of miles long.
Image of Comet ISON courtesy of the Hubble Space Telescope.
You cannot tell which way a comet is traveling just by looking at its tail. You can only suggest the direction toward the sun.
A Tale of Two Tails
Many comets have two tails--a bright dust tail and a blue ion tail. The arcing
dust tail
is visible because sunlight reflects off the stuff ejected from the comet nucleus. The blue
ion tail
is charged particles from the vaporized elements, and it flows straight out from the sun, caught in the current of the outflowing "solar wind."
Imagine the sun to be like this fan, blowing out solar material in all directions. The comet's tail extends downwind of that "solar wind."
Drawing by Dacota Schrader shows Comet ISON as a turkey rounding a campfire on Thanksgiving Day 2013. A trail of yellow feathers are like the dust tail left behind. The turkey's blue left wing is like the ion tail sticking straight out and flowing downward from the "solar wind."
Fargo model fan courtesy of Fanimation.
Life (and Death) of a Sungrazer Comet
NASA Video (Intro)
Comet ISON will whip around the sun fewer than a million miles from its surface. The
there is searing, and additional forces like the sun's immense
and the "
solar wind
" want to tear the icy comet apart.
Regardless of the comet's outcome,
we can learn much from Comet ISON!

NASA Video (Details)
What is a sungrazer?
And why is this one important?
No one knows what will happen to Comet ISON after its closest approach to the sun (perihelion) on November 28, 2013. It may become visible in the morning twilight, or it may be destroyed by the sun.
Bottom Line
Image courtesy of Solar Dynamics Observatory.

That's what's so cool about science--we don't have all the answers!
In South Bend,
we're having a
Comet Festival!
With so much uncertainty, there's only one thing to do.

Video shows comets bitin' the dust. Ouch!
What's a
Comet Festival?
Comet Festival
Cosmic Quest
Treasure Hunt
Telescope Observing
Community & Business
& Theaters
South Bend Community School Corporation
The Pool
Alligator Blackbird
Chicory Cafe
Friday, November 29
Friday, December 6
her Marigold
Telescope Clinic
Yoga Under
the Stars
Tail End
at the Zoo
Meet Dayle Brown
Colfax Cultural Center
Calendar of Events
Video: Experience Michiana
That main chunk, called the nucleus, heats up. When the ice melts, the water vapor and other comet debris is ejected from the comet nucleus.
What do you think happens to a piece of the icy debris when it comes in from deep space and nears the sun?
Flowing outward is the comet's long
, which is blown downwind from the sun by a "solar wind" .
Dust Tail
Ion Tail
Head (the coma around small nucleus)
Comet Hale-Bopp
In the past, people saw a lot of order in the stars. The night sky was consistent and predictable.
Comets were different!
Many cultures witnessed and recorded comets. These Chinese drawings on silk from a
round 300 B.C. show
from previous centuries and the
that occurred around the same time.
Do you think comets going around the sun really caused disasters on earth?
Comets were considered bad omens. The Bayeux Tapestry shows a scene from the Battle of Hastings, where King Harold was defeated by William the Conqueror in 1066. Notice the people pointing to the comet over Harold, who is sitting on his throne.
Wait a minute. If the comet was so
for Harold, why was it
for William?
300 BC
In 1909 when Comet Halley approached the sun, astronomers detected cyanide, which can be poisonous in some forms. People sold "anti-comet-sickness pills" to protect buyers from illness or death. Others said the comet would hit earth. Neither worry came true.
When Comet Hale-Bopp came around in 1997, the Heaven's Gate cult believed an alien spaceship was hiding behind the comet on its way to earth. They even bought "alien abduction insurance." There were no aliens.
Chinese records called comets "hairy stars."
The comet blamed for Harold's defeat was actually the 1066 appearance of Halley's Comet.
Patterns made from stars are called constellations, which do no change.
slowly move against those background stars, go around the sun, then disappear.
A new threat confronts us in the Internet era--rapidly spread bad science. People claim a Hubble image shows two alien spacecraft next to Comet ISON, but it's actually three long exposures taken from the moving space telescope.
What's NASA Doing?
What will we see?
To be honest,
we don't know
. Comet ISON may be a
comet visible in the morning sky. You'll look to the east southeast about 90 minutes before sunrise.

Or it could be a visual
--maybe even destroyed by the sun before close approach on Thanksgiving Day.

In early December, Comet ISON will rise tail first, below and to the left of Saturn, as twilight brightens the morning sky. Each day the comet moves further from the sun.
What do
think will happen?

South Bend schools are stepping up!
What's a comet?
Processed image by Hubble Space Telescope
But that's okay. That's the nature of...nature!
We're here to watch and learn from Comet ISON, regardless of its outcome. See what sungrazing comets reveal at
Be sure to check out nearby celestial highlights through a telescope in December--like Saturn, Jupiter, and the Beehive Cluster.
Is Earth at Risk?
NASA Video
"Comet ISON is what is known as a long-period comet, which means it comes from the scattered disk of debris in the Oort Cloud region, near the very boundary of our solar system. A gravitational shoving match with another object out there jolted it out of its orbit and sent it sailing toward the inner solar system. Short-period comets – the kind you see returning to the inner solar system again and again, like Halley’s Comet – are from the Kuiper Belt region beyond Neptune, a thousand times closer. Long-period comets only appear once, and are gone forever. They either get ripped apart by the Sun or end up back adrift in the Oort Cloud."
Where did Comet ISON come from?
Sometimes a single comet can break up into lots of pieces, like this Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. The string of fragments plowed into Jupiter like a train wreck in
Comet ISON Images
The latest...
NASA Image of the Week
Speaking of duds, the "K-Word" for astronomers...
In order to see, you gotta look.
Comet ISON will likely be visible in small telescopes in November and December 2013. See the Comet Festival website for viewing opportunities.
In South Bend...
Dr. Padma Yanamandra-Fisher, an astronomer with the NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign, spoke to organizers of the Comet Festival via Skype in the planetarium at Kennedy Primary Academy.
NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign
Balloons, rockets, rovers, orbiters...
using the hardware!
Around 20,000 South Bend students are creating original art related to comets, the solar system, and space. Over 300 pieces from 33 schools will be displayed at the Colfax Cultural Center.

Students will
on what they expect will be the outcome of Comet ISON. Will it survive its fiery Thanksgiving plunge around the sun? Will it be visible? Or will the sun's searing heat destroy the icy body?

Get some skin in the game!
Call For Art
Comet ISON Now
Comet Coma Coffee
from Victorian Pantry
Hosting the Comet Festival Art Exhibit
and the South Bend Schools Comet Art

Full transcript