100 million miles is a long way to go for a comet viewing party. At least NASA brought a piano.
This little smudge doesn't look like much now, but it's a newly discovered comet that's heading towards the sun. C/2012 S1, as it's known, will make its closest pass in November of next year, by which point astronomers are predicting that it may appear brighter than a full moon. Much brighter.
Just who do those comets think they are, huh? HUH? All cruising around the solar system, leaving their dirty ice trails everywhere. NASA's gonna go in and show them who's boss, and the agency's bringing in the big guns to do it. Literally.
In August of 1883, an astronomer in Mexico named José Bonilla spotted hundreds of fuzzy objects passing in front of the sun that nobody could explain. A new analysis of these observations suggests that what Bonilla saw was anywhere from a billion to a trillion tons of comet passing as close as a few hundred miles from the surface of the Earth.
There's no reason you should be familiar with comet C/2010 X1 "Elenin." It's a relatively small ball of ice that's scheduled to pass us at a distance of 21 million miles on October 16th. If you are familiar with Elenin, it's either because you're an obsessive sky watcher, or because you've been reading too many doomsday and conspiracy websites.
NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope, launched back in December 14th of '09, has been tasked with piecing together the grand vista of space a little bit at a time. "We've got a candy store of images coming...