Comet Elenin Disintegrated?

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Comet Elenin, the supposed “doomsday comet” that has inspired so much confusion and controversy since its discovery in December 2010,  may have broken apart completely during its recent pass around the Sun.

Discoverer Leonid Elenin posted the image above earlier today on his website, SpaceObs.org. Taken with the International Scientific Optical Network’s 18″ telescope in New Mexico (ISON-NM), it shows what may be the remnants of Elenin, a faint cloud barely visible after its exit from behind the Sun.

“On the left you can see possible position of this ‘cloud’,” Leonid writes. “Brightness of this object does not exceed 18m, which means what now, magnitude of the comet is lower then predicted on 12m. Hopefully in the near future debris of the comet will be observed on a large telescopes, and perhaps we’ll see some details of this ‘cloud’.”

Ground-based viewing of Elenin’s remains may be hampered over the next few days by the full Moon, he adds.

Although many rumors have been spread about the catastrophic danger Elenin poses to humans, in reality the comet was never a threat. Not expected to come any closer than 22 million miles (35 million km) to Earth, it’s been previously speculated that Elenin would most likely disintegrate during its current orbit.

“I don’t know why fearmongers [chose] my comet,” Leonid Elenin told Universe Today. “I received many letters from scared people. But if they believe in conspiracy theories I can’t help them.”

Hopefully this helps put some of the doomsday nonsense to rest!

See Leonid’s latest post on his site here.

Image: ISON-NM Observatory

Jason Major

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

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