Hubble Provides View of Comet ISON

Posted on April 23, 2013

Hubble image of comet ISON taken on April 10 2013

The NASA Hubble Space Telescope has provided the clearest view yet of Comet ISON. ISON is a recently-discovered sun grazer comet that may light up the sky later this year. ISON may also come so close to the Sun that it disintegrates. The image was taken on April 10, 2013 when ISON was 386 million miles from the Sun. ISON may come as close as 700,000 miles to the Sun on November 28.

A University of Maryland-led research team is closely following ISON. They say that like all comets, ISON is a "dirty snowball" made up of frozen gases mixed with dust. The researchers say comets become more active as they near the inner solar system and the Sun's heat evaporates their ice into jets of gases and dust. ISON is already becoming more active even at a distance of 386 million miles. The researchers say a strong jet is blasting off dust particles, which shimmer in reflected sunlight. This is what makes ISON's tail visible in the Hubble image.

You can see a larger version of the image here. NASA released a video about ISON in January. NASA says it could become a naked eye object later this year. It could also be destroyed by the Sun. Take a look:

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

More from Science Space & Robots