SCIENCE

NASA's New 'How To Cook A Comet' VIDEO Comes Just In Time

11/22/2013 03:52 pm ET

You don't need NASA to tell you how to cook an egg. Mac and cheese? You can handle that too. But when it comes to knowing how to "cook" a comet, NASA's probably your best bet -- especially now that the space agency just released a fascinating new video entitled, um, "How To Cook A Comet."

As a comet approaches the sun, it's heated by solar radiation -- and material on its surface changes directly from solid to gaseous form. Called sublimation, this process gives rise to the characteristic plume of dust that trails behind the comet. The comet will disintegrate if it's not strong enough to withstand the sun's intense heat and strong gravitational pull.

NASA's new video comes just in time for skywatchers with an interest in Comet ISON, which has been called the "comet of the century." ISON is expected to reach its closest approach to the sun on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28.

Will the space rock be cooked to oblivion? Astronomers are keeping a watchful eye.

As NASA says in the video's YouTube description:

Even if the comet does not survive, tracking its journey will help scientists understand what the comet is made of, how it reacts to its environment, and what this explains about the origins of the solar system. Closer to the sun, watching how the comet and its tail interact with the vast solar atmosphere can teach scientists more about the sun itself.

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