Spectacular video: Comet ISON imaged from a Langrange point in space

NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, is monitoring Comet ISON as it approaches the sun. NASA’s twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft are parked in Langrange zones, known as the L4 and L5 Lagrangian points, each centered about 93 million miles away along Earth’s orbit.

The latest movie from the STEREO-A spacecraft’s Heliospheric Imager shows the comet moving in from the left side over a two-day period from Nov. 20 to Nov. 22, 2013.

In addition to Earth and Mercury, Comet Encke can also be seen moving through the middle of the view. The sun sits outside the field of view of this camera, located to the right, off-screen, hinted at by the steady stream of particles, called the solar wind, moving in from the right. Watch.

 

In addition NASA’s Messenger spacecraft snapped new images of Comet ISON on Nov. 19 as the icy object sped by Mercury at a distance of 22.5 million miles. Meanwhile, the agency’s sun-studying Stereo-A probe captured its own ISON photo on Nov. 21, and a phalanx of other solar space observatories will watch the comet’s close encounter with the sun on Thursday, which will bring it within just 730,000 miles of the solar surface.

Will it be toast? We’ll find out soon enough.

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70 Responses to Spectacular video: Comet ISON imaged from a Langrange point in space

  1. omnologos says:

    On a side note, and in full spirit of shameless self-promotion, to this day I cannot find any mention of the word “greenhouse” in NASA’s planetary atmosphere’s website (using Google).

    http://omnologos.com/why-the-nasa-planetary-atmospheres-website-doesnt-mention-greenhouse-gases/

    This very important topic doesn’t seem to have interested any planetary scientist for a long long time.

  2. omnologos says:

    oops…I mean…no mention but the one proposal that is, from 13 years ago

    http://pds-atmospheres.nmsu.edu/data_and_services/nasa_abstracts/PATM/Fy01/Bullock-01-091.html

    modelling one billion years, no less

  3. Psalmon says:

    Spectacular. Under a million miles, now that, I’ll agree, is some serious climate change.

  4. David says:

    The STEREO spacecraft are not parked at the Lagrange points. They’re orbiting the sun with orbits of 346 and 388 days. Actually they are now moving closer together on the far side of the sun, and will cross behind the sun sometime in 2015.

  5. @njsnowfan says:

    Anthony What is that moving in back of Comet Ison From up to down and curves some.?? Another Comet? Would be first time I have see two in one loop.
    Spaceship enterprise?? lol
    Thanks Great Video..

    REPLY: as explained in the text “In addition to Earth and Mercury, Comet Encke can also be seen moving through the middle of the view. ” – Anthony

  6. @njsnowfan says:

    I did not read you entire post, Comet Encke. Two Comets in one Video is awesome .

  7. Konrad. says:

    It looks very like Comet ISON is about to become Comet ICARUS.

  8. Fake

    REPLY: No, it isn’t, and you have no basis for claiming so – Anthony

  9. Mark Hladik says:

    Spaceweather.com is speculating that the nucleus of ISON is showing characteristics of a disintegration.

  10. Bill Illis says:

    Comet Ison will be viewable on the Lasco C3 viewer starting on November 27 and then Lasco C2 on November 28th. It will take the path shown below just grazing the Sun’s surface for a few hours on November 28th (some of other Sun satellites might be able to track it in the close approach when C2 is masked out).

    http://www.isoncampaign.org/files/images/ison_lasco_Nov.jpg

    It might look as spectacular as Comet Neat in 2002 except Comet Ison will get much, much closer than Neat.

    http://minorplanetcenter.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Comet-C2002-V1-NEAT-in-LASCO-C3.gif

    Go to the “The Sun Now” at this link to watch it – use the MPEG Movie animator (note the direct links don’t seem to work properly from this site so a few extra clicks required here).

    http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/

  11. Not doubting anything but things are unclear to me. Lagrange points, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagrangian_point
    Now if I look from L4 or L5 to the Earth, I can imagine that the sun is just offset to the right, I wonder though what I fail understand how did Mercury -optically- got outside the orbit of the earth?

  12. pwl says:

    Very cool. Solar flares reaching out into our and ISON’s space… oh what is that moving dot of light that stars above ISON’s path and ends up below it as ISON passes it?

  13. Jquip says:

    Groovy video, thanks for sharing it.

  14. dp says:

    The satellites are in free orbit at about the same distance from the sun as is the Earth (1 AU) but traveling at different speeds than the Earth. They’re not locked at any L points and in fact are nearly behind the sun now. They won’t be able to follow the comet as it rounds the sun but it’s a hell of a nice show now. The satellite pair are currently observing 4 comets but not all are in the same frame as ISON and Encke.

  15. Mike Bromley the Kurd says:

    Mark and two Cats says:
    November 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm
    Fake

    REPLY: No, it isn’t, and you have no basis for claiming so – Anthony

    And what’s more, the CME that roars by causes ISON to wag its tail. Stupendous!

  16. markstoval says:

    I don’t understand. This is a great video and most interesting. But some dude took time to post here and simply say “fake”. What is up with that? Unless it was a “snarky” comment or a /sarc tag was forgotten; then it may have been one of the dumbest comments seen here in awhile.

    I would like to say that even though I am a cat lover/owner and my first name is the same — all that is coincidence!

  17. pwl says:

    Oh, Comet Encke is the other moving object! Very cool. Stupendous is an appropriate word for the CME indeed. Wowza!

  18. geran says:

    wonder if the comet abides by the Stefan-Boltzmann Law….

  19. Martin 457 says:

    Just thinking here;

    The sun vaporizes it but, the cloud doesn’t disperse.
    Could it reform when the cloud leaves the solar influences?

  20. Bill B says:

    When I watch the video, it looks like the comet’s tail is waving upand down. Wht would cause that.

  21. philjourdan says:

    I really hope it makes it by the sun. The last few comets have really duds.

  22. Anything is possible says:

    A couple of links here for anyone who wants to follow ISON’s plunge to a possible fiery death :

    http://www.cometison2013.co.uk/perihelion-and-distance/

    http://www.solarsystemscope.com/ison/

  23. Irving C.Sheldon Jr. says:

    Anathema says:
    Mercury’s orbit appears to be outside Earth;\’s because of the perspective from the satellite. Earth is more distant than Mercury, in fact on the far side of the sun.

  24. _Jim says:

    dp says November 26, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    The satellites are in free orbit at about the same distance from the sun as is the Earth (1 AU) but traveling at different speeds than the Earth. They’re not locked at any L points

    Que?

    Per the linked NASA webpage above:

    – – – – – – – – –
    L4 and L5 are among the special points in our solar system around which spacecraft and other objects can loiter. They are where the gravitational pull of a nearby planet or the sun balances the forces from the object’s orbital motion. Such points closer to Earth are sometimes used as spaceship “parking lots”, like the L1 point a million miles away in the direction of the sun.

    They are officially called Libration points or Lagrangian points after Joseph-Louis Lagrange, an Italian-French mathematician who helped discover them. L4 and L5 are where an object’s motion can be balanced by the combined gravity of the sun and Earth.
    – – – – – – – – -

  25. justaknitter says:

    I thought and thought, until my thinker was sore. But, I finally got my mind around the point of view that would lead to a picture that makes it appear that the Earth is closer to the sun than Mercury.

    If you had no depth perception an you were watching a baseball game from left center field it would appear that second base was closer to home than first base.

  26. Mark and two Cats said:
    November 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Fake

    REPLY: No, it isn’t, and you have no basis for claiming so – Anthony
    ——————————————————
    Yes I do: Lewandowski said that, as I am not a warmunist, I must therefore believe the moon landing was a fake, etc. Cuz I am a skeptic, I am motivated to reject science doncha know.

    (sorry, thought my joke was so obvious it didn’t need a /sarc tag)

  27. ossqss says:

    Drama on a different scale?

    Makes me wonder what portion of a pixel am I in that video? (•¿•)

  28. Mac the Knife says:

    OK – THAT was way cool! The tail ‘wags’ like sea grass in a current. Down stream eddy effects from the solar wind?

  29. John Andrews says:

    OK, Mark, we forgive you, but remember, there is no body language on the internet. You really have to spell it out.

    Great post, Anthony.

  30. paulhan says:

    Wow, if it survives, it looks like it will come to its closest point to Earth on Jan 6th.

    http://stereo-ssc.nascom.nasa.gov/comet_ison/

  31. Max™ says:

    ———————- Mercury
    Camera ————————————————— Earth
    ————————-Sun

    For those who are still having a bit of trouble getting the geometry there.

  32. NikFromNYC says:

    Oh wow, much nicer than the oppressively boring entrance to NASA GISS tonight, fifteen minutes ago, next to Tom’s Diner, where evidently there’s a computer terminal or two upstairs, in a boring residential building off campus, one that not one in a thousand locals even knows exists, not enen the the tourists.
    http://s6.postimg.org/54mao14hd/image.jpg

  33. John Day says:

    @WUWT
    > (STEREO) spacecraft are parked in Langrange zones,
    > known as the L4 and L5 Lagrangian points, each centered about
    > 93 million miles away along Earth’s orbit.

    Anthony,
    That information is not correct. The STEREO spacecraft are not parked in L4 and L5, but did pass through those points back in September and October 2009.
    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/stereo/news/gravity_parking.html (Note date in upper right corner)

    Actually, these spacecraft are currently far away from L4 and L5, on the other side of the Sun:
    http://stereo-ssc.nascom.nasa.gov/where.shtml
    :-|

  34. Bill Jamison says:

    I seen some credible reports that ISON has likely broken up. I really hope those reports are wrong. I’ve been waiting for ISON to put on a spectacular display for almost a year now.

  35. noaaprogrammer says:

    The CME wagging Ison’s tail made it look like a sperm.

  36. Mark says:

    Call me skeptical, but why is this spectacular? This was supposed to be the comet of the century. So far, it’s a dud. Maybe this dud falsifies the establishment theory of comets.

    The electrical theory of comets better describes this behavior and the behavior of all comets.
    http://www.holoscience.com/wp/deep-impact-2/

  37. F. Ross says:

    Fantasmad&$ngorical movie clip. Thanks Anthony.

    I sure hope ISON survives its [rendezvous] with the sun.

  38. F. Ross says:

    ten lashes for incorrect spelling >>>>rendezvous

  39. RACookPE1978 says:

    Konrad. says:
    November 26, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    It looks very like Comet ISON is about to become Comet ICARUS.

    No problem … Under Obama, NASA will never recognize gas-fueled automobiles.

    If Comet ISON breaks up, the parts simply become IISON, IIISON, IVSON, VSON, VISON, etc. …..

    Of course, VISON will be the easiest to see, and thus the most deer of all.
    But looking for IVSON will always be like looking for a needle in the haystack.

    But NASA is becoming trying to be gender-neutral, and so ISON may spawn IDAUGHTER if it breaks exactly in two; and then if those break up we’ll see IGRANDCHILDI, IGRANDCHILDII, IGRANDCHILDIII, IGRANDCHILDIV, ….

  40. Clyde says:

    That was really cool. Thanks for posting it.

    Now somebody go find Leif Svalgaard & tell him to make the two comets collide. :)

    Just kidding Mr Leif S. Don’t yell at me.

  41. There was a filament released CME tonight seen on Stereo Behind COR2. And it appears to be heading right at ISON. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=677267202313143&set=vb.178186248887910&type=2&theater

    Will be cool to watch for a disintegrating tail!

  42. dp says:

    _Jim says:
    November 26, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Visit this page and get a picture of where L4 and L5 are.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagrangian_point

    Now go to this site and see where STEREO A and B are now:
    http://stereo-ssc.nascom.nasa.gov/where.shtml

    It is physically impossible for A or B to be locked at L4 or L5.

  43. Gregg Eshelman says:

    Did anything on or around Mars with a camera get any pictures of this comet? 6 million miles is decently close. Would have been far more interesting had it hit Mars. I wonder how much the Mars pass altered its trajectory?

  44. Swiss Bob says:

    Sky was clear over Geneva last couple of days, can’t see it during the day but at sunset it’s brighter than Venus. I tool my telescope out of storage for a look, couldn’t resolve to anything more than a blob but it still looked intact last night, approx fourteen hours ago.

    A bit disappointing, as another poster pointed out, it’s always ‘comet of the century’ and it’s always a disappointment. I guess if it survives its journey around the Sun we might see something, I will live in hope.

  45. “icy object”?

    Didnt the one comet we’ve tested (Tempel 1, iirc) seem to be more solid than ice?

    We have only one data point, and it is contrary to our theory, which is supposedly enough to falsify a theory, yet we hold to our theory? Is that how science is done by skeptics?

    I know it’s cold in space, but you were making a reference to the object’s component elements, weren’t you?

  46. H.R. says:

    My goodness! Technology has certainly improved since Stonehenge times. They would have sacrificed any number of virgins for a satellite or two. Fantastic video.

  47. Bill Illis says:

    Ison is showing up on Lasco C3 now. Looks to be a little smaller than expected so far.

    But there also a large CME blowing out right at. Although it may just be a coincidence, there are often CMEs associated with comets.

    http://soho.nascom.nasa.gov/hotshots/index.html/

  48. John Day says:

    @Anthony
    > Spectacular video: Comet ISON imaged from a Langrange point in space

    Hello, Earth to Anthony, can you hear us? Your title is wrong. Please re-read the NASA link you posted and note the date in the upper right corner of the page: “04.09.09”

    So, back in 2009, the STEREO A and B spacecraft did pass through the L4 and L5 Lagrange points. But they didn’t park and just continued to move around the Sun to points where they are now, on the other side of the Sun.

    You need to post an UPDATE on this. :-|

  49. John Day says:

    … also note spelling of “Lagrange” (French, “the barn”), not “Langrange” :-|

  50. Ric Werme says:

    justaknitter says:
    November 26, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    If you had no depth perception an you were watching a baseball game from left center field it would appear that second base was closer to home than first base.

    Very good analogy. Good thinking!

  51. beng says:

    Astronomy is always interesting, but the only naked-eye comet that really impressed me was unheralded/unexpected Comet Hyakutake in 1996.

  52. Twobob says:

    If this comet passes the sun how hot will it be?
    Will it give off Photons?
    It is in a vacume so should stay”hot” for time.

  53. John Day says:

    Twobob says:
    November 27, 2013 at 6:30 am

    If this comet passes the sun how hot will it be?
    Will it give off Photons?
    It is in a vacume so should stay”hot” for time.

    Comets are made of ice, rocks and dust. The ice melts and vaporizes as it gets close to the Sun, which forms the tail, pushed away from the Sun by the solar wind. Yes it will get hot, perhaps hot enough to glow on its own (“red hot” = 500C-1000C). But all you will see is the reflected light from the Sun. Yes, it’s in a vacuum, but the rocks can cool off by radiating the heat. So it will cool off as it returns to deep space, if it doesn’t get completely ripped to shreds by the Sun.

  54. ldd says:

    Impressive video Anthony; totally impressed with the way they can bring these images to us now.

    As a side note: Was sitting here last evening, about 8 pm our time – checking out ISON’s progress on WUWT as our first major snow storm of the year started when suddenly the sky lit up like it was day time. A small meteor? I know that sometimes we can have lightening and thunder during winter storms, I’ve seen it before but this was different. We live off the beaten path between Montreal and Ottawa, and have an almost panoramic view so consequently have no window coverings as it’s all natural vistas for us – lit the (n)eastern side of the sky up and it pulsed a couple quick flashes! We didn’t hear a sound as those to the east of us reported; but we did have heavy cloud cover that was messing with the 2 sat feeds that we use. One of these are still down, wondering now if it’s not that latest solar belch. http://www.solen.info/solar/

  55. Jan Garmany says:

    The identification of Mercury is correct. The source of the confusion is the assertion that the STEREO satellites are at Lagrangian points. They are not. See the information at http://stereo-ssc.nascom.nasa.gov/where.shtml to see how the observed geometry arises.

  56. _Jim says:

    dp says November 26, 2013 at 10:31 pm


    It is physically impossible for A or B to be locked at L4 or L5.

    Are we dealing with obtuse semantics here?

    One of your cited sources reference even states the following:

    The Lagrangian points (/ləˈɡrɑːndʒiən/; also Lagrange points, L-points, or libration points) are the five positions in an orbital configuration where a small object affected only by gravity can theoretically be part of a constant-shape pattern with two larger objects

    Notice the terminology in bold above: “constant-shape pattern“?

    What does that suggest to you?

    .

  57. Jim G says:

    Bill B says:
    November 26, 2013 at 5:08 pm
    “When I watch the video, it looks like the comet’s tail is waving upand down. Wht would cause that.”

    Coronal Mass Ejection, ie solar particle with mass ejected from the sun. Go to http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/highlights/193909261.html‎ click on A frame from STEREO-A with comets ISON (lower left) Encke (near center). Click for movie.
    Karl Battams / NRL / NASA-CIOC.

  58. John Day says:

    @_Jim
    > Notice the terminology in bold above: “constant-shape pattern“?
    > What does that suggest to you?

    It suggests that you should first determine, theoretically, whether the Lagrange points are stable. Turns out the L1,L2,L3 are unstable, but the L4,L5 are stable.

    So, _theoretically_, STEREO A and B could have been inserted into stable orbits around L4 and L5.

    But, in actuality, when these birds flew by L4 and L5 in 2009, NASA _did not_ insert them into these orbits. The plan was to let them ride on (in near Earth orbits) to take a peek at the other side of the Sun. So that’s where they are now, roughly 120 degrees from Earth. The L4 and L5 are about 60 degrees from Earth.

    BTW, you know what the “other side” of the Sun looks like, don’t you? It’s the ‘dark side’ where it’s safe to land at night. /sarc
    :-|

  59. _Jim says:

    John Day says November 27, 2013 at 9:39 am

    It suggests that you should first …

    Suggest you ‘wire’ NASA and perhaps ‘suggest’ a re-wording of their info page on this subject; I am only floating a few questions in light of conflicting info being posted (perhaps on both sides?) You might be confusing me with an ‘expert’ from NASA who has intimate knowledge of orbital mechanics, and I assure you I am not. I am, rather, assuming the role of ‘the trier of facts*’ here.

    .
    .

    *Trier of fact – A trier of fact is a person, or group of persons, who determines facts in a legal proceeding, usually a trial. To determine a fact is to decide, from the evidence, whether something existed or some event occurred.

    .

  60. Bill Illis says:

    Its little slow getting into SOHO’s webpage, but Phil Plait (who is better at astronomy than he is with global warming) has put up a nice image here. More recent than other images and it shows the true size of the Sun.

    http://www.slate.com/content/dam/slate/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/11/01/soho_ison_nov27_1645UTC.jpg.CROP.original-original.jpg

  61. Billy Liar says:

    John Day says:
    November 27, 2013 at 9:39 am

    BTW, you know what the “other side” of the Sun looks like, don’t you? It’s the ‘dark side’ where it’s safe to land at night.

    … and I thought I saw the other side of the sun a couple of weeks ago. :-)

  62. John Day says:

    @_Jim
    >Suggest you ‘wire’ NASA and perhaps ‘suggest’ a re-wording of their info page

    Why don’t you notify them? I have no problem with their page. It is factually correct. Perhaps some folks failed to note the date at the top of the page, and assumed that the STEREO birds were still approaching the L4, L5 points.

    So that’s ancient history (from 2009) to me.
    :-|

  63. John Day says:

    @Billy Liar
    >… and I thought I saw the other side of the sun a couple of weeks ago. :-)

    That must have been a fig-newton of your imagination. :-|

  64. _Jim says:

    John Day says November 27, 2013 at 12:32 pm
    ..
    Why don’t you notify them?

    Better someone familiar with the history and background on this subject (like yourself) rather than me (only an interested onlooker and ‘trier of facts'; speaking of which, few I have seen from your side of the argument). This should be a slam-dunk for someone a) in possession of the facts and b) with your acumen, unless, of course, there are serious shortcomings of either of those two points.

    If you find no issue with their info/webpage, you have only been arguing with yourself …

    .

  65. John Day says:

    @_Jim
    >If you find no issue with their info/webpage,
    > you have only been arguing with yourself …

    Actually I was arguing with you. So you still have not grasped that it was _your_ interpretation of the facts vs dates that was at fault, not mine or the NASA page.

  66. Brian says:

    Using only basic reading comprehension, it is very clear that the STEREO spacecraft never were parked at the Lagrange points. It is rather alrming to me that this has still not been corrected, especially since the title of the post commits the same error. Makes me wonder about the accuracy of other posts around here.

  67. dp says:

    _Jim said: Notice the terminology in bold above: “constant-shape pattern“?

    What does that suggest to you?

    It suggests that neither STEREO A or B are anywhere near L4 or L5 and you are not paying attention. Those Lagrange points are always on the Earth side of the sun and both STEREO orbiters are on the other side of the sun at present. It is because neither craft are anchored to a Lagrange point that they suffer communications blackouts as they travel behind the sun as seen from Earth and out of line-of-site communication. http://stereo-ssc.nascom.nasa.gov/where/behind_sun.shtml

    The L4 and L5 points follow the Earth’s orbit ahead and behind at specific distances and angles from Earth relative to the sun – they don’t move independently of Earth. The satellites do, though.

    This must be what they mean by rocket science.

  68. John Day says:

    @Brian
    >Makes me wonder about the accuracy of other posts around here.

    I wouldn’t worry, Anthony usually fixes these bloopers in a jiffy. Don’t know why this one is taking so long, but “dp” caught first the error in about an hour after it was posted. So very unlikely that a big glitch like this would persist very long without being caught by us, the readers of this blog.
    :-|

  69. dp says:

    _Jim, I think, missed this paragraph from the STEREO website in discussing the Lagrange points:

    The STEREO spacecraft are designed to give 3D views of space weather by observing the sun from two points of view and combining the images in the same way your eyes work together to give a 3D view of the world. STEREO “A” is moving slightly ahead of Earth and will pass through L4, and STEREO “B” is moving slightly behind Earth and will pass through L5. “Taking the time to observe L4 and L5 is kind of cool because it’s free. We’re going through there anyway — we’re moving too fast to get stuck,” said Kaiser. “In fact, after we pass through these regions, we will see them all the time because our instruments will be looking back through them to observe the sun – they will just happen to be in our field of view.”

    And pass on through they did.

  70. Twobob says:

    Thank you John Day.
    I had just thought that this comet being close to the sun ,
    would heat up quite a lot to say 4000k (warm white).
    By the way the video of the comet gives wrong information about the Earth/ Moon , orbit.
    The moon does not have a retro-grade orbit.

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