ISON is named after a sungrazing comet
. The title came to Alizadeh as she was drifting into sleep, and perfectly matched the project she glowed with excitement talking about.
But sometimes, a sungrazing comet
- a term for comets that pass extremely close to the Sun on their nearest approach to it - gets too close to the center of the Solar System and instead of whipping around our star, it plunges to a fiery death.
This phenomenon occurs as a result of a sungrazing Comet
96P Machholz breaking up and the earth passing through it.
The sungrazing Comet
Lovejoy (C/2011 W3) put on a spectacular display for the Southern Hemisphere at the end of December 2011.
The comet will approach within about 730,000 miles (1.2 million km) of its visible surface, which classifies ISON as a sungrazing comet
. In late November, its icy material will furiously sublimate and release torrents of dust as the surface erodes under the sun's fierce heat, all as sun-monitoring satellites look on.
Marsden, 'The Sungrazing Comet
Group', AJ, 72(2), 1170-1183 (1967)
The sungrazing comet
C/2012 S1 (ISON), which is predicted to be extremely bright, will be visible to the naked eye in Bulgaria at the end of November 2013, according to local experts.
The cover of my first issue, December, had a picture of the great sungrazing comet
Ikeya-Seki (C/1965 SI).
And Australian Terry Lovejoy used an 8-inch Celestron and HyperStar to discover the spectacular sungrazing Comet
C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy) at the end of 2011.
It wasn't yet behaving like a sungrazing comet
, but it was at least behaving like a near-Sun comet.
Senior editor Alan MacRobert remembers the post-perihelion dazzle of the sungrazing Comet
Ikeya-Seki in 1965 and the dud of Comet Kohoutek in 1973-74.
Discovered just a month before its swing by the Sun, this sungrazing comet
grew from an 8th-magnitude telescopic blur to a brilliant naked-eye spectacle in just a few weeks.