Comet ISON lives!

29 Nov

UPDATE: While it appears that some small portion of ISON’ nucleus has survived, there is significant discussion if the surviving ‘piece’ is little more than dust. When concrete information is available as to the fate of ISON, I’ll provide an updated story.

This article, written by Harrison Ruess, was originally posted on Sun News Network.

Initial observations of Comet ISON’s close encounter with the Sun on Thursday suggested that it was vaporized during its solar fly-by. However new observations on Friday morning suggest that at least a portion of the comet’s nucleus – its rocky core – may have survived.

A hint that ISON may have survived appeared in an image from the joint NASA/European Space Agency observatory SOHO, which showed ISON appearing to brighten again.

If ISON had been destroyed as originally suspected, it’s unlikely that it would be seen getting brighter today.

Comet ISON passing the Sun, courtesy SOHO/ESA/NASA
Image sequence from SOHO, courtesy NASA/ESA

“After perihelion, a very faint smudge of dust appeared in the (SOHO) images along ISON’s orbit. This surprised us a little…We watched and waited for that dust trail to fade away. Except it didn’t,” wrote Karl Battams, astrophysicist and computational scientist based at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC.

“Now, in the latest (SOHO) images, we are seeing something beginning to gradually brighten up again,” he continues.

Battams’ working theory is that large chunks of ISON broke off in its journey past the sun, but part of its core remains intact.

As this is a very dynamic situation though, Battams cautions: “just be patient on this and the truth will unfold in time!”

If a large portion of ISON survives intact, it would be visible to the naked eye in Earth’s night sky in the coming weeks.

For the latest, you can check out NASA’s ISON page.

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