Comet Elenin is no more.
The comet discovered in December became popularized as a doomsday comet since astronomers expected it to fly close to the Earth and the comet resembled ancient apocalyptic prophesies.
The Earth didn't encounter the comet, it flew no closer than 22 million miles (35 million km) from the Earth and instead headed closer to the Sun.
By August, NASA downgraded the non-killer comet; by early October, space blogger Jason Major reported that the comet may have disintegrated, a fact that NASA officials confirmed Tuesday.
Elenin is no longer a comet but caput.
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 in Pasadena, Calif. Elenin's remnants will also act as other broken-up comets act. They will trail along in a debris cloud that will follow a well-understood path out of the inner solar system. After that, we won't see the scraps of comet Elenin around these parts for almost 12 millennia.
For those broken up over the breakup of what was formerly about 1.2 miles (two kilometers) of uninspiring dust and ice, remember what Yeomans said about comets coming close to the Sun -- they fall apart about two percent of the time.
Doomsday prophets speculated the gravitational effect from Elenin caused earthquakes and other disasters, a rumor that NASA denied that lead to further rumors that NASA was covering up.
I cannot begin to guess why this little comet became such a big Internet sensation, Yeomans said. The scientific reality is this modest-sized icy dirtball's influence upon our planet is so incredibly miniscule 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).
Yeomans knows 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.