NASA released the photos of the Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) taken on April 10 by the Hubble Space Telescope, when it was slightly closer to the Earth than Jupiter. Plus, later in this gallery, we'll show a surprise comet finding from Jupiter.
Why is this so special? This comet could actually outshine the moon as it approaches the sun, getting closest on November 28 this year. 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. Remember Comet Kohoutek?
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. The current dust trail is 57,000 miles long, but will increase in size as it approaches the sun as frozen gases will be released.
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.
Here's a contrast-enhanced image of Comet ISON, which shows the inner structure of the inner coma.
NASA's Swift satellite caught one of the first images of comet ISON on Jan. 30, 2013 with this 5.5-minute optical exposure. ISON was about 5,000 times fainter than the limit of human vision.
Credit: NASSA/Swift/D. Bodewits, UMCP
Here's the route of Comet ISON.
NASA also reported that almost all water present in Jupiter's stratosphere, an intermediate atmospheric layer, originated from comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which gave quite a show in 1994 when it impacted Jupiter's atmosphere.
On July 24, 1994, the Hubble Space Telescope caught comet Shoemaker-Levy when it broke up and crashed into Jupiter. This could possibly happen to Comet ISON when it approaches the Sun. There are eight different impact sights in this image.