A beautiful new image of Comet ISON has just come to light — showing the vibrant, almost emerald green color of the comet’s coma. The image was taken with the 0.8-meter Schulman Telescope at the University of Arizona SkyCenter by astrophotographer Adam Block.
While Comet ISON is lagging behind some of the more optimistic predictions made earlier this year, and has yet to become visible to the naked eye, it’s still very likely that ISON will become a naked eye comet before the end of the year — so long as it survives its closest approach to the Sun on November 28th that is. Until that date, the comet should steadily (or not so steadily…) become brighter and brighter.
If you’re wondering about the green color — that’s apparently the result of melting gases containing the chemical cyanogen — a rather poisonous gas, inorganic cyanides are generally very poisonous — as well as diatomic carbon. Both compounds are known to glow green when exposed to sunlight in the vacuum of interplanetary space.
As an interesting aside — cyanogen is currently an important intermediate in the production of many modern chemical fertilizers… The effects of inhalation include: severe headache, dizziness, rapid pulse, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, convulsions, and death — with the severity of the effects depending primarily on the degree of exposure.
For those who have access to a telescope (and clear, dark skies), you can currently find Comet ISON rising right alongside the planet Mars in the eastern sky, just before dawn.
You can find out more about Comet ISON and the other prominent astronomical events of the year here: Astronomy 2013, Comet ISON, Geminids, Lunar Eclipses, Solar Eclipses, Supermoon, Etc
Image Credit: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona