Comet Ison approaching the sun

Source: Science at NASA

“Comet of the century?” NASA Science asks.   The comet ISON was spotted in September, 2012 by Russian astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok.

ISON is expected to put on quite a show in the Fall, NASA reports:

“On Nov. 28, 2013, this “dirty snowball” will fly through the sun’s atmosphere little more than a million km from the stellar surface. If the comet survives–a big IF–it could emerge glowing as brightly as the Moon, briefly visible near the sun in broad daylight. The comet’s dusty tail stretching into the night sky could create a worldwide sensation.”

ISON is much bigger than comet Elenin, whose fate was to turn to dust as it neared the sun last year.  ISON is compared to comet Lovejoy, although the new comet is estimated to be twice as large:

“A better comparison, perhaps, is Comet Lovejoy, which flew through the sun’s atmosphere in 2011.  Lovejoy emerged intact and wowed observers with a garish tail for weeks.”

The article quotes Lowell Observatory’s Matthew Knight about Ison’s glow:

“As 2013 unfolds, the comet is still very far away—near the orbit of Jupiter.   That’s why it looks like a speck.   “But for an object at such extreme distance, it is actually very bright,” says Battams.  The comet’s glow suggests that is spewing gas and dust from a fairly large nucleus..”

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