In September 2012, a Russian and a Belarusian astronomer using the Kislovodsk Observatory co-discovered a comet heading our way. Comet Ison should become visible to Earth viewers in December 2013 after passing perilously close to the Sun during November. It may even appear brighter than the moon, triggering discussions about when and how comets formed.
A team of astronomers presented an analysis at the 44th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in March 2013, writing that Ison "could become one of the brightest comets in this century."1 Sunlight reflecting off the comet's tail of trailing ice and debris promises to shine brightly. That debris tail should remind its viewers that the comet is rapidly losing mass.
Up close, it would appear to be a hulking block of rock and ice, but it is just a tiny pixel compared to the scale of the Solar System. Ison rides an orbital track that takes it very near the sun—about one million miles—so close that astronomers classify it as a "sungrazing comet." Of course, solar heat erodes Ison's ice, making the comet into a kind of egg timer, quickly counting down to zero. Like all sungrazing comets, Ison will eventually vaporize.
Astronomers measure comets' masses and erosion rates to calculate potential lifespans. Sungrazing comets last fewer than 100,000 years.2 They thus confront secular astronomy which maintains that comets formed with the rest of the solar system billions of years ago. A solar system that old should have no remaining comets.
How do secularists solve this dilemma?
Reporting on Ison, The Independent said, "Comet Ison has taken millions of years to reach us travelling from the so-called Oort cloud – a reservoir of trillions and trillions of chunks of rock and ice, leftovers from the birth of the planets."3
Unfortunately, nobody has yet witnessed a single one of those "trillions and trillions of chunks." Going strictly with observational science, the "so-called Oort cloud" may exist only in the reservoir of the human mind.
Clearly, secular astronomers invented the Oort cloud to rescue their billions-of-years dogma from a disintegration process that limits a comet's age—and thus the age of the Solar System—to thousands of years. When Ison becomes visible later this year, perhaps it will remind thoughtful viewers that the universe is quite young, just as Scripture teaches.
- Trigo-Rodriquez, J.M. et al. 2013. Post-Discovery Photometric Follow-up of Sungrazing Comet C/2012 S1 Ison. 44th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. March 18-22. The Woodlands, Texas. #1576.
- Humphreys, D. R. 2005. Evidence for a Young World. Acts & Facts. 34 (6).
- Whitehouse, D. 'Brighter than a full moon': The biggest star of 2013... could be Ison - the comet of the century. The Independent. Posted on December 27, 2012, accessed June 25, 2013.
Image credit: NASA
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on June 28, 2013.