The sun-grazing Comet
ISON, now thought to be less than a mile (1.6 kilometers) wide, will either fry and shatter, victim of the sun's incredible power, or endure and quite possibly put on one fabulous celestial show.
"Comet Ison is important for science because it is what we call a 'sun-grazing comet
'," he said.
The comet was first discovered after seeing its long, bright tail of dust and ions tagged it as a Sun-grazing comet
seen often by solar astronomers and observatories such as STEREO.
It was also the night on which, had he been observing, he would very probably have found one of the greatest comets of the 20th century: the Sun-grazing comet
Ikeya-Seki, discovered by two Japanese amateurs.
Among its shining examples is Tsutomu Seki of Kochi, who is world renowned for his codiscovery of the spectacular Sun-grazing comet
Ikeya-Seki in 1965.
Unlike previous sun-grazing comets
, ISON was detected more than a year out, giving researchers at the world's major ground-based telescopes plenty of time to watch its approach to the sun.
Astronomy buffs were soon searching SOHO's data archives for serendipitous observations of Sun-grazing comets
. The tally since 1996 is 2,378 and counting.
When Terry Lovejoy discovered his latest comet, designated C/2011 W3, in the early hours of 2011 November 27 from his home observatory in Brisbane, Australia he became the only person to have discovered Kreutz group sun-grazing comets
both from spacecraft imagery and from Earth-based observations.
It was expected to melt like all the 2,000 other sun-grazing comets
astronomers had tracked.
A resident of Mumbai's satellite town of Dombivli, 38-year-old Deshmukh is thrilled to bits that he has become the first Indian to have discovered half a dozen Sun-grazing comets
better known as Kreutz Sungrazers, spotted by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (Soho).
Toni Scarmato, a high school teacher and a graduate student at Bologna University in Italy, identified the two comets as part of the Kreutz group of sun-grazing comets
. About 85 percent of the comets found by SOHO belong to this group, whose members have similar orbits and pass within 800,000 kilometers of the sun's surface, less than one-seventieth Mercury's distance from the sun.
It has also helped generate a three-dimensional view of the sun's interior and has provided spectacular images of sun-grazing comets
and solar flares (SN: 5/30/98, p.