Tuesday July 25th 2017

Deep Space Telescope to observe Comet ISON

FORTIS_observes_comet_ISONFree News Press – NASA will be using one of their telescopes designed for the study of distant galaxies to examine the Comet ISON as it travels through the inner solar system. The launch of the Far-ultraviolet Off Rowland-circle Telescope for Imaging and Spectroscopy (FORTIS) has been delayed one day.

FORTIS was designed to measure the presence of atoms in far away galaxies, however the NASA team hopes to use the instrument to measure hydrogen, carbon monoxide, oxygen, and other elements / molecules shed by the Comet C/2012 S1 discovered at the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) near Kislovodsk, Russia.

Scientists believe this is the comet’s first trip near the sun. The NASA team expects the comet to be made of “pristine matter” that could shed light on the components of the early solar system.

ISON is expected to travel closest to the sun on November 28th 2013. At that time the comet will be shedding much of its material and could even be destroyed. The possible destruction of ISON – the nickname given to C/2012 S1 – has put pressure on astronomers around the world to collect as much data as possible.

FORTIS was first used in May, according to Stephan McCandliss, the Fortis Principal Investigator at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. “We knew we were going to rebuild the instrument and fly it again, regardless – it was just a question of how fast. When our proposal to use FORTIS to look at ISON in November was accepted, we started working our tails off.”

It is hoped that the FORTIS will launch from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico atop a two-stage Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket on Wednesday morning, November 20th 2013. These low-cost rockets are used to propel payloads to a range higher than weather balloons but lower than satellites.

NASA needs to capture the images before ISON slingshots around the sun and back into space. The mission should last just six minutes.

The Earth will pass through the comet’s orbit on January 14th and 15th 2014. Astronomers are not sure whether we will see meteor showers from the particles and debris left in its wake.

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