Comet ISON Bad Science
- As expected, the hype on Comet ISON is beginning to grow and the misinformation grows
along with it.
You would expect a reputable broadcast service such as The Weather Channel to be a
bit more level-headed on such hysteria, but headlining on their webpage today is:
"Is This Comet Going to Destroy Earth?"
with the latest Hubble photo of Comet ISON prominently displayed.
Shame on The Weather Channel.
As November approaches, the development of social reaction to the approach of this
comet is likely to be far more dramatic than the comet itself.
Dr. P. Clay Sherrod
Arkansas Sky Observatories
MPC H45 - Petit Jean Mountain South
MPC H41 - Petit Jean Mountain
MPC H43 - Conway West
- Hi all,
While scientific outreach to the wider public is a
good thing, mixing this with hype is not and will ultimately be destructive in
leading the public to expect a grand spectacle that may not happen. In the end
this leads to disappointment and even distrust of anything that astronomers and
scientists in general might say. Not all the hype has come from crackpot sites.
Statements have been made by folk who really should know better. Realistically,
a comet with an absolute magnitude of 7 � 8 is not likely to become �the comet
of the century� or �the brightest of modern times� unless it experiences a
mighty surge in intrinsic brightness closer to the Sun. This is possible, but
would be highly atypical for a dynamically new comet and it is not responsible
to give the impression that we can expect such behaviour to occur.
This said however, there are good reasons for
drawing the public�s attention to ISON. Never before has a comet destined to
come so close to the Sun been found so far out in the Solar System and so long
in advance of perihelion. At no previous occasion have we had the opportunity
to observe a dynamically new comet experience such thermal and tidal stresses
as ISON will encounter in late November. This is an unprecedented opportunity
to employ a whole battery of modern observing techniques on something more
substantial than a SOHO mini-sungrazer. The only approximately similar occasion
was with C/Lovejoy, but this comet was very different to ISON insofar as it was
far from being dynamically new and pristine. Lovejoy was like burnt toast
whereas ISON is fresh bread! We saw how burnt toast behaved but now we have the
chance to watch fresh bread encounter its first roasting and we do not know
what the differences will be.
All of this, plus details of how to observe ISON as
well as a background regarding comets in general and their place in the scheme
of things, is surely interesting to much of the general public, without any
need of embellishment with wild �predictions� that probably will not be
fulfilled. ISON is an interesting object in its own right, and will remain so
whether it becomes the comet of the century or the fizzer of the millennium. If
it is presented to the public properly and without sensationalism, the
non-astronomer can share in the excitement, even if the comet completely bombs.
And if it really does become the comet of the century, this will be an extra
(and very welcome) bonus. Cheers,
Date: Wed, 7 Aug 2013 23:47:28 +0000
Subject: [comets-ml] Re: Comet ISON Bad Science
I know, it had me scratching my head too. I mean, heaven forbid that one of the world's most popular and respected astronomy magazines should produce a "Special" to help the man and woman in the street find the comet, accompanied by good and accurate advice and information. What a cheek! Far better to leave people to wade knee deep through the great piles of crap being written about ISON by losers obsessed with aliens, UFOs and Armageddon, right? And how DARE astronomy publishers produce books on ISON, ensuring people have a reliable source of information to go to, instead of struggling to find information on YouTube from the nutters and woo-woos who are screaming at the world how ISON is going to bring death and disaster! What ARE they thinking?!!
For pity's sake, let's get a grip here. Books and "specials" were produced for Halley, and were very useful to a lot of people. Instead of criticising astronomers for doing Outreach, and making efforts to help non-astronomers find and enjoy ISON, let's congratulate and support them. And if you don't feel able to do that, for whatever reason, just let them get on with it, and don't whine about people who have the drive and talent to do it.
Sorry to sound a bit narked by this, but I can't help thinking we're not just looking a gift horse in the mouth here but spitting in its face. Come on, everyone, cheer up! ISONs don't come along that often that we can afford to waste them.
--- In email@example.com, "Eddie" <ed1ward2@...> wrote:
> "Unfortunately it seems many of our colleagues are rushing to make
> money ot of ISON with a well known American Astronomy magazine
> bringing out a comet ISON special as comet of the century and a number
> of books from publishers like Springer..."
> I'm sorry but I really do not understand this comment.
> Ed Murray
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]