Much Much has been made of Comet Elenin on the Internet, namely a giant production about how the comet may just be on a collision course with Earth, just in time for 2012. Well, for anyone starting to get nervous, don’t, as it is an established fact that Comet Elenin will not come all that close to earth, missing us by several million miles. However, doomsday aside, the comet is in the news again as it may actually be disintegrating.
Every night, astronomers, mostly amateurs, are monitoring and photographing the comet. In the past few days, some strange things have been taking place in regards to this cosmic visitor from the distant reaches of the solar system. So, what’s been going on in space? To start with, the comet has dramatically dropped in brightness. Another, more telling sign: the comet’s coma has elongated, which may hint at a disintegrating nucleus.
And all of it has been chronicled online.
On the Southern Comets website, webmaster Michael Mattiazzo has been chronicling the comet’s appearance through photographs, which appear on his main homepage, just scroll about a quarter of the way down to get to the Elenin section. Obviously, it does not require a degree in astrophysics to see that the comet is indeed changing, with the elongated coma being the most obvious difference between the new and older images.
While not conclusive proof of anything, Mattiazzo has gone so far to say that the comet is breaking up and, in all probability, won’t survive a close passage to the Sun, which is going to take place in early September.
Want to see the comet before it breaks apart? Well, you’ll have to move to the Southern Hemisphere to do so as the comet is currently invisible from the Northern half of the Earth. If the comet does survive perihelion (close approach to the Sun), it will appear in the Northern Hemisphere’s morning sky come the very end of September. Unfortunately, this does not appear likely thanks to the latest observations. However, as comets are always very hard to predict, stay tuned.