NASA, which had gone out of its way to diminish wild doomsday reports about the impact of comet Elanin on Earth over the summer, reiterated its scorn for the hoopla by today issuing a statement detailing the comet's death.
"Comet Elenin is no more," NASA said.
"Elenin did as new comets passing close by the sun do about two percent of the time: It broke apart," said Don Yeomans of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a statement. "I cannot begin to guess why this little comet became such a big Internet sensation. The scientific reality is this modest-sized icy dirtball's influence upon our planet is so incredibly minuscule that my subcompact automobile exerts a greater gravitational influence on Earth than the comet ever would. That includes the date it came closest to Earth (Oct. 16), when the comet's remnants got no closer than about 22 million miles (35.4 million kilometers)."
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NASA said that the latest indications are this relatively small comet has broken into even smaller, even less significant, chunks of dust and ice. "This trail of piffling particles will remain on the same path as the original comet, completing its unexceptional swing through the inner solar system this fall. "
NASA went on to say Elenin, which was first spotted in December of 2010 somehow quickly became something of a "cause célèbre" for a few Internet bloggers, who proclaimed this minor comet could/would/should be responsible for causing any number of disasters to befall our planet. "Internet posts began appearing, many with nebulous, hearsay observations and speculations about earthquakes and other disasters being due to Elenin's gravitational effects upon Earth. NASA's response to such wild speculations was then in turn speculated to be an attempt to hide the truth," NASA said.
Yeomans added that while Elenin may be gone, "there will always be Internet rumors that will attempt to conjure up some form of interplanetary bogeyman out of Elenin, or some equally obscure and scientifically uninteresting near-Earth object. Thinking of ways to make himself any more clear about the insignificance of this matter is somewhat challenging for a scientist who has dedicated his life to observing asteroids and comets and discovering their true nature and effects on our solar system. "
"Perhaps a little homage to a classic Monty Python dead parrot sketch is in order," said Yeomans. "Comet Elenin has rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-comet."
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