Astrophysicist Karl Battams held a talk about comet ISON and how it was catastrophically destroyed as it approached the Sun last Thanksgiving Day. The speech was held in the UCF Physical Science building on Friday, October 10.

Battams, who has worked in the Space Science Division of the Naval Research Lab in Washington D.C. for over ten years, recapped background information regarding ISON during the first half of the talk. He also highlighted interesting points from the comets final year of approach to the Sun. The second half of the talk focused on how numerous sources of observational and modeling evidence allows us to paint a picture of the destruction of ISON.


According to Dr. Yan Fernandez, an astronomer in the UCF physics department, about 30 people attended the talk.

“Judging by the number of questions, it seemed like the audience was quite interested. It make sense, since the topic had world-wide attention last year, and everyone remembers that,” Fernandez said.

When asked what made ISON so unique and special, Battams said three things, which ultimately became one.

“First it was discovered very far out in the solar system – beyond 6 A.U. – and it was unusually bright for being such a distant object,” says Battams. “Second, it was what we call dynamically new, meaning this was the first time it had been in our solar system. Third, it was what we call a sungrazing comet, which means it was following an orbit through space that would take it ridiculously close to the Sun. Comet ISON was the first dynamically new sungrazing comet that we have on record; we had never seen one of these before.”

At the end of the talk there was a question and answer session, which lasted about fifteen minutes. Students and professors didn’t hesitate to ask questions during the talk as well, according to Fernandez.

All in all, Battams said it was a nice event.

“Comet ISON was a very high-profile object last year, and I think that carried through with people who wanted to know how the story ended. Hopefully I was able to bring a certain degree of closure to a few people,” Battams said.