There and Back Again: Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON)

ISON remnantOr not, as the case may be. If you haven’t already heard Comet ISON – once hailed as a potential “comet of the century” – has almost certainly fragmented after rounding the Sun and will not be spectacularly gracing our skies over the new year, nor returning to the outer reaches of the solar system intact. In more hopeful times back in late June Brian Thomas published an article called “Ison–The Comet of the Century,” which opened:

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.

Thomas, who paid no attention to what was even then a very real possibility that ISON would break up during its “perilous” perihelion approach, used the comet as a launching pad to promote the young-Earth creationist view that comets prove that the universe is young. But even before fragmenting ISON was not a particularly good poster-boy for this cause. Continue reading

The So-Called Oort Cloud

Pillars of Creation, Eagle nebularIt’s been the better part of a month since we last ventured into space on this blog, but only two days since we saw some classic denialism. Today, we get both! Brian Thomas’ Wednesday article is called Certain Stellar Features Just Don’t Exist. Can you guess which he is talking about?

Sorting fact from fiction when it comes to outer space can be tricky, especially when scientists assert that certain stellar features are real when they are not. Why should school textbook authors, or the students and teachers that rely on them to deliver accurate information, trust these scientists’ more speculative assertions when they routinely name structures that don’t exist?

Creationists, of course, never engage in outrageous speculation. Continue reading