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        Comet Encounter | Full Episode

        A new celestial object is hurtling into our corner of space: the comet Ison, as named by astronomers, may be one of the most spectacular events in recent star-gazing memory. Through this documentary, explore the history of comet encounters over the centuries, as well as the cutting-edge scientific analysis that researchers are able to use to study Ison today. See what can this comet tell us about the history of our solar system, and what we can possibly expect to see when Ison nears the sun for a (potentially) spectacular show that will light up our night skies.

        Comet Encounter

        A new celestial object is hurtling into our corner of space: the comet Ison.

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        Discovering Comets | Comet Encounter: Chapter 1

        The discovery of Comet Ison may hold answers to some of astronomy's biggest questions about our solar system, but by taking a look back in history, we realize that comet encounters weren't always such welcome sights.

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        Tracking Ison | Comet Encounter: Chapter 2

        Comets may seem like distant objects, but on occasion humanity is reminded of the powerful destruction that comets could pose when they get too close for comfort. Even with rigorous calculations and data crunching, top scientists are still often unable to determine the exact trajectory of these celestial objects—even when comets like Ison are less than 500 days away from nearing our corner of the solar system.

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        The Origins of a Comet | Comet Encounter: Chapter 3

        By piecing together the history of comets like Ison, scientists can form hypotheses about the history of our solar system, and even our galaxy.

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        What Are Comets Made Of? | Comet Encounter: Chapter 4

        All comets, like Comet Ison, emit spectra of light that scientists can observe here on earth. By measuring these patterns (a process known as spectroscopy) scientists are able to discover which elements and compounds a comet is made of, even when the object is still almost a year away from the sun. This spectrum of light is radiated from a comet's coma: a small atmosphere of gas and dust that forms around the comet's surface.

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        A History of Comets | Comet Encounter: Chapter 5

        Take a look at the story of two historical scientists, Isaac Newton and Edmond Halley, who were together able to conceptualize the secrets bethind the trajectories of comets. It was Newton who first theorized that comets moved in elliptical orbits, but it was Halley who wagered that these orbits could be used to predict the paths of comets and even calculate the date of their resurgence in our skies.

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        Can Comets be Deadly? | Comet Encounter: Chapter 6

        However unlikely it may be, a comet does pose a threat to people on Earth if it were ever to impact our planet; yet the paranoia caused by comet encounters has been a much more real reaction over the years. An analysis of Ison—only a week away from entering the harsh atmosphere of the sun—shows us that the comet may actually hold more secrets about life on our planet, not death. Many scientists believe that the water that we see on Earth today once fell to our planet from comets, like Ison, that are rich in water molecules.

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        A Solar Voyage | Comet Encounter: Chapter 7

        As the final days count down, Comet Ison nears the most dangerous leg of its journey; a brief, rapid revolution around the sun. Comets graze the sun's atmosphere all the time, but the space around the sun is volatile and few ever escape the orbit. Will Ison be devoured by the heat, or will it survive to give us a spectacular show in the night sky?

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