Hubble snaps amazing Comet ISON speeding toward Earth encounter

Hubble snaps amazing Comet ISON speeding toward Earth encounter

Summary: The Hubble Space Telescope crew released an image that shows Comet ISON on track for a potentially spectacular show on Thanksgiving day.

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TOPICS: Nasa / Space
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  • NASA released a new composite image of the Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) which was taken on April 30 by the Hubble Space Telescope as it streaked toward a close encounter with the Earth.

    Why is this so special? Comet Ison won't actually be that near the Earth but when it nears the sun this comet could actually outshine the moon. Its best display should on November 28 this year, Thanksgiving Day. It could also be spectacular in the northern hemisphere on its return trip to the outer reaches of the Solar System.

    Or it could just fizzle out. The radiation from the sun could boils its water and pull it apart, a solar flare could rip off its tail, or the sun could just destroy it as it passes by.

    The nucleus of comet itself is only 3-4 miles in diameter but the dusty head of the comet is about 3,100 miles across. Its dust trail was 186,400 miles long as last reported on June 13, but will increase in size when frozen gases will be released as it approaches the sun.

    What makes this comet even more remarkable is that it most likely has never been this close to the sun so its matter should be in about the same condition as when it was originally formed - probably at the same time as formation of the solar system.

    Comet ISON is named after the International Scientific Optical Network, which is "a group of observatories in 10 countries who have organized to detect, monitor, and track objects in space. ISON is managed by the Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences," according to NASA. Russian astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok found the comet in September 2012 when it was 585 million miles from the sun between Jupiter and Saturn.

    You can follow the Comet at NASA's Asteroid and Comet Watch. Other sites include The Sky Live which has a Comet ISON position tracker, and NASA will have a Comet ISON Observing Campaign,

    Crediti: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

  • Here's a closer look at the comet as it passes by the stars and galaxies in the background.

    Crediti: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

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Topic: Nasa / Space

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6 comments
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  • Oort cloud comet

    So this is a long period comet being ejected from the depth of the Oort cloud around 10,000 years ago . Very interesting is also its hyperbolic (almost parabolic) orbit. The orbital eccentricity is a tiny bit greater than 1. Hence the surmise that it came from very far. It must be overspeeding right now and will go crazy at its perihelion, some 7.3x10^5 km from the surface of the Sun where one can estimate its speed (sol. escape velocity) to be around 636,803 km/s (or 395mi/s) . Hopefully, it survives the ride!
    eulampius
    • my bad

      the escape velocity is off, since I mistook the miles for kilometers in and didn't account for the Sun's radius. SO the perihelion, as of wikipedia is 1.8x10^9 , which gives us a more modest figure of 384,061 m/s or 238.6 mi/s. Still pretty awesome!
      eulampius
  • Re: solar flare could rip off its tail

    You realize the tail is already made up of material that's been "ripped off" the comet?
    ldo17
  • Quick!

    Get Bruce Willis on the phone!
    William Farrel
  • "this comet could actually outshine the moon"

    I certainly hope so. I've waited more than 60 years for a real comet, like a lot of other people. These fuzz balls you can barely see with binoculars are worn out. ;)
    Bill4
  • What about Comets Hyakutake and Hale Bopp in the mid 90's?

    I remember those quite well.
    Michael Kelly