Summary: The Hubble Space Telescope crew released an image that shows Comet ISON on track for a potentially spectacular show on Thanksgiving day.
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.
Crediti: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)