Comet ISON, Comet Of The Century Imaged By Hubble Space Telescope

Comet ISON, the potential “comet of the century”, was recently photographed by NASA’s famous Hubble Space Telescope. The image, taken on April 10, depicts the bright comet making its way into the solar system. At the time, Comet ISON was about the distance from the Sun that Jupiter orbits at, 386 million miles.

Comet ISON Hubble Telescope
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute), and the Hubble Comet ISON Imaging Science Team

While that seems like a great distance, the sunlight there is already causing the comet to warm, and the frozen gases trapped in it, to sublimate. “A detailed analysis of the dust coma surrounding the solid, icy nucleus reveals a strong jet blasting dust particles off the sunward-facing side of the comet’s nucleus.”

“Preliminary measurements from the Hubble images suggest that the nucleus of ISON is no larger than three or four miles across. This is remarkably small considering the high level of activity observed in the comet so far, said researchers from the Space Telescope Science Institute. “Astronomers are using these images to measure the activity level of this comet and constrain the size of the nucleus, in order to predict the comet’s activity when it skims 700,000 miles above the Sun’s roiling surface on November 28.”

“The comet’s dusty coma, or head of the comet, is approximately 3,100 miles across, or 1.2 times the width of Australia. A dust tail extends more than 57,000 miles, far beyond Hubble’s field of view. More careful analysis is currently underway to improve these measurements and to predict the possible outcome of the sun-grazing perihelion passage of this comet.”

The new photograph was taken in the visible light spectrum with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. The false color was then subsequently added in order to emphasize details in the structure of the comet.

“ISON stands for International Scientific Optical Network, a group of observatories in ten 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.”

Comet ISON has been predicted to possible be the “comet of the century” when it makes its way to the sun, at the end of November. With predictions saying that it may become as bright as the full moon, visible in daylight, with a tail that stretches across the sky, and may even spark its own meteor shower, when we pass through its debris in January. Certainly sounds interesting, to learn more see: Astronomy 2013, Comet ISON, Solar Eclipses, Meteor Showers, Supermoon, Dance of the Planets, Lunar Eclipses, Etc

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