Brightest comet has astronomers guessing

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Bengaluru: With ISON, known as the brightest comet of our lifetime, expected to be close to the earth, the astronomers are divided over its appearance. While the astronomers at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) have launched a test balloon to capture its pictures, the experts from Jawaharlal Nehru Plan­et­arium are cautious about the comet.

The astronomers from the planetarium said the appearance of ISON comet is still a mystery. Few global models predicted that the comet will appear by mid October, but have been proved wrong.

“Comets such as ISON are known as ‘sun grazers’ and are attracted towards the sun. The course of the comet will be such that it falls into the sun. But when it’s traveling too close to the sun its appearance will be difficult.

Besides many long term models on this comet have failed to predict its course,” a senior astronomer from the planetarium said However IIA astron­omers are hopeful that by the end of November the comet will be visible to naked eyes for a span of 20-25 days.

The IIA plans to launch two balloons as part of its mission to capture the pictures of the comet. They are hopeful it may reveal many secrets.

“The comet ISON is a target of immense opportunity to study the origin of the solar system,” said Narayan Prasad, Co-Founder of Dhruv Aer­ospace “One such high altitude balloon was launched two weeks ago which has travelled more than 500 km.

In the next launch we have made some minor adjustments to ens­ure the balloon travels at the altitude we require,” Prasad revealed. He said that apart from IIA, only NASA is invol-­ved in similar balloon exercise to track the comet.

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