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On Thanksgiving Day â Nov. 28, 2013 â the showy comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) will scream past the surface of the Sun, skimming over the roiling surface of our star at a height of just 1.1 million kilometers (700,000 miles). We donât know if the comet will shine mightily, blast off chunks of itself, or disintegrate completely during this close encounter.
But you can watch the whole thing live, with me, and a pile of NASA scientists on Google+! NASA is holding a live video Hangout on G+ during ISONâs perihelion passage (peri = close, helion = Sun, so perihelion is the closest point in an objectâs orbit to the Sun). The event is from 18:00 â 20:30 UTC (1:00 â 3:30 p.m. EST).
There will be live feed from NASAâs SOHO Sun-observing satellite (that should be spectacular) and from the Kitt Peak Observatory solar telescope. Guests include astronomers C. Alex Young, W. Dean Pesnell, Karl Battams (who runs the SunGrazingComets feed on Twitter), and me! Iâll be on from 1:30 â 2:30 EST to talk about the comet, the Sun, and what weâll be seeing on the screen.
You donât have to have a G+ account to watch; on Thursday Iâll put up a post with a video viewer embedded in it so everyone can watch from there (assuming you can tear yourself away from football, or eating turkey, or the MST3k Turkey Day Marathon, or all three). After all, Thanksgiving comes every year, but a bright, ostentatious comet taking a death-dive into a starâs atmosphere isnât something that happens terribly often. I hope yâall can take some time to check it out.