The special will combine CGI and breathtaking images captured by cutting-edge technology to show why the coming of Comet ISON is considered by many astronomers to be a once-in-a-lifetime cosmic event.
Comet ISON is bigger than Australia, its head measuring an impressive 4,900km across and dust trail extending more than 91,000km – more than twice the circumference of planet Earth! It is set to shoot by one of the harshest environments in our solar system, the sun, on November 28th, creating a solar slingshot by passing by Mars and Earth before going around the sun and whizzing back.
What makes this comet’s visit particularly interesting is the fact that our sun may rip it apart, a phenomenon that will provide viewers from Earth with a fantastic display of light. Alternatively, if Comet ISON survives its proximity to the sun, we will be seeing it blazing through our skies for some time after the event.
Comet ISON is over 4 billion years old and is hurtling through space at the speed of 684,000 kilometers per hour, allowing it to cover the distance between New York and Los Angeles in the US in under 20 seconds. It is brighter than other comets seen at the same distance. Besides giving the astronomers and stargazers alike an amazing illusion, Comet ISON is being watched by the most prestigious telescopes in the world in the hopes of providing scientists with crucial scientific data that could help them understand more about comets, the sun and the origin of our solar system.
Comet Of The Century will be featuring experts such as Adam McKay, one of the first astronomers to use spectroscopy with an earth-based telescope to observe the head of ISON, Karl Battams, a scientist from the British Naval Research Laboratory, and Gareth Williams, a scientist working with the Minor Planet Centre, which is responsible for keeping track of asteroids, comets and natural satellites. Scientists will be giving a historical perspective of Comet ISON along with greater insight into the nature of comets and how our understanding of intergalactic phenomena has developed throughout history. Comet ISON potentially carries a significant amount of information that may answer many questions, such as whether comets brought water to the newly born Earth, or if Comet ISON contains any organic molecules, which are the building blocks of our existence. Comet Of The Century explains these queries to viewers and draws them into the fascinating world of astronomy and how it links to musings on our very existence.
Catch the premiere on November 27, Wednesday at 10pm only on the National Geographic Channel!