Incoming comet ISON appears intact to Hubble

October 17, 2013
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

(Phys.org) —A new image of the sunward plunging Comet ISON suggests that the comet is intact despite some predictions that the fragile icy nucleus might disintegrate as the Sun warms it. The comet will pass closest to the Sun on November 28.

In this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image taken on October 9, the 's solid nucleus is unresolved because it is so small. If the nucleus broke apart then Hubble would have likely seen evidence for multiple fragments.

Moreover, the coma or head surrounding the comet's nucleus is symmetric and smooth. This would probably not be the case if clusters of smaller fragments were flying along. What's more, a polar jet of first seen in Hubble images taken in April is no longer visible and may have turned off.

This color composite image was assembled using two filters. The comet's coma appears cyan, a greenish-blue color due to gas, while the tail is reddish due to dust streaming off the nucleus. The tail forms as dust particles are pushed away from the nucleus by the pressure of sunlight. The comet was inside Mars' orbit and 177 million miles from Earth when photographed. Comet ISON is predicted to make its closest approach to Earth on December 26, at a distance of 39.9 million miles.

Explore further: Hubble brings faraway comet into view

Related Stories

Hubble brings faraway comet into view

April 23, 2013

(Phys.org) —The NASA Hubble Space Telescope has given astronomers their clearest view yet of Comet ISON, a newly-discovered sun grazer comet that may light up the sky later this year, or come so close to the Sun that it ...

Astronomers detect dust feature in comet ISON's inner coma

May 21, 2013

In April, when the Hubble Space Telescope looked out towards Jupiter's orbit and observed what has been billed as the "Comet of the Century" – Comet C/2012 S1 ISON – the space telescope photographed a unique feature in ...

Comet ISON brings holiday fireworks (w/ Video)

July 2, 2013

This July Fourth the solar system is showing off some fireworks of its own. Superficially resembling a skyrocket, comet ISON is hurtling toward the sun presently at a whopping 48,000 mph.

Preparing for comet ISON

September 24, 2013

(Phys.org) —ESA's space missions are getting ready to observe an icy visitor to the inner Solar System: Comet ISON, which might also be visible in the night sky later this year as a naked eye object.

Comet ISON goes green

September 30, 2013

As NASA and the European Space Agency prepare their remote photojournalists – Mars Express, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers – to capture photos of Comet ISON's flyby of Mars early ...

Comet C/ISON details emerge as it races toward the Sun

October 11, 2013

Scientists are unraveling more information on Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) as it continues on its journey toward the Sun. Comet C/ISON will skim 730,000 miles above the Sun's surface on Nov. 28 and has the potential to be readily ...

Recommended for you

Prawn Nebula: Cosmic recycling

September 2, 2015

Dominating this image is part of the nebula Gum 56, illuminated by the hot bright young stars that were born within it. For millions of years stars have been created out of the gas in this nebula, material which is later ...

Comet Hitchhiker would take tour of small bodies

September 2, 2015

Catching a ride from one solar system body to another isn't easy. You have to figure out how to land your spacecraft safely and then get it on its way to the next destination. The landing part is especially tricky for asteroids ...

New Horizons team selects potential Kuiper Belt flyby target

August 29, 2015

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.