By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
On Thanksgiving Day, the sun-grazing Comet ISON might be cooked hotter than a turkey in the Sun’s fiery rays. The icy comet, which is less than a mile wide, could light up space in a beautiful explosion when it smashes against the Solar System’s brightest star. If it somehow manages to survive, the comet will be visible with the naked eye until December from the northern half of Earth.
Astronomers believe the comet is from the frosty Oort cloud on the edge of our Solar System, and in January it was clocked traveling 40,000 mph. Now, it’s sped up to an astonishing 150,000 mph, and will zip by the sun at an even more ridiculous 828,000 mph! If you’re worried about shards of space ice landing in your eggnog this Thursday, don’t fret. The comet will get no closer than 40 million miles from Earth. Phew!
The Maven spacecraft that recently launched towards Mars will try to get a glimpse of ISON in mid-December. University of Colorado’s Nick Schneider is in charge of the instrument, and recently said no one really knows what exactly will be visible after it passes the Sun. It’ll either be “comet bits or the last wisps of comet vapor,” he said, and added, “Whatever happens, it’s bound to be interesting. The quip from my colleagues is, `Comets are like cats: They have tails and do whatever they want.’”
Images courtesy of NASA.