Comet ISON Introduction (01:39)
Astronomers are tracking a 4.6 billion year old comet to learn about the origins of the solar system.
ISON's Approach (02:09)
Lowell Observatory astronomers observe the comet for the first time.
Dirty Snow Balls in Space (01:25)
Learn comet constitution and characteristics. Astronomers learn from their dynamism.
Sun Grazer (00:52)
4.6 billion year old Comet ISON will travel through the sun's corona
ISON Origins (02:12)
The comet’s composition hasn’t changed since it was formed in the Oort Cloud along with the solar system five billion years ago. Little is known about planetary formation.
Van der Waals Force (03:21)
German researchers use a space simulator to study how dust particles collide and bond, forming centimeter sized bodies.
Mass Transfer Theory (01:23)
Learn how space dust particles may collide at high speed and grow beyond a centimeter sized body to form planets.
Peloton Theory (02:10)
Researchers demonstrate how dust particles gradually grow in mass to form a planet. If ISON explodes passing near the sun, it will support the Peloton Theory.
Planet Diversity Mystery (01:53)
Learn how inner planets and gas giants differ in composition.
Temperature Gradient Theory (02:30)
Learn why temperature and distance to the sun may have determined planetary composition. Uranus and Neptune remain a mystery, however.
Gas Giant Formation Theory (03:25)
Scientists believe that ISON formed in Neptune's area. Gravitational forces catapulted it to the Oort Cloud; its return will allow astronomers to learn its formation temperature and location.
Accretion Theory (02:33)
ISON may help scientists learn why earth is covered in water. For decades, many believed water vapor was released in volcanoes and condensed to form rain clouds.
Comet Water Supply Theory (03:20)
Earth's water may have been delivered from space by comets. Learn the difference between ordinary water and heavy water that doesn't occur naturally on earth.
Contradictory Comet Water Data (02:51)
In 1986, heavy water was discovered on Halley's Comet. In 2010, vapor similar to Earth's water was detected on Hartley 2 Comet. ISON may answer whether comets delivered Earth's water.
Comets and Life Formation (01:23)
Learn how amino acids are the building blocks of life. They may have formed across the universe.
Life Chemistry (03:42)
Comets contain ingredients for amino acids. A researcher simulates outer space and sun radiation and discovers their formation could be possible under extreme conditions.
Amino Acid Formation (04:42)
Learn how comets hitting a planet could create life. Scientists simulate a high velocity impact and discover amino acids can be formed—suggesting they exist across the universe.
Rosetta Space Mission (04:07)
In 2004, the ESA launched a spacecraft to land on a comet to search for amino acids in its nucleus; learn technical challenges.
Search for Extra Terrestrial Life (01:39)
Learn potential implications for science if the Rosetta Mission is successful.
Credits: Comet of the Century (00:45)
Credits: Comet of the Century
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