ScienceShot: Comet ISON Could Be No More


ScienceShot: Comet ISON Could Be No More

Incoming comet ISON was obviously on a perilous path. The “dirty snowball” was on course to swing by the sun less than one solar diameter above the sun’s searing surface on 28 November, Thanksgiving Day in the United States. This view from the SOHO spacecraft dramatically illustrates ISON’s close passage through the sun’s streaming solar wind and around the sun (here inserted from another image to give a sense of scale). But astronomers are reporting ominous signs, such as a peak in overall brightness, suggesting that the shrouded ball of ice and dust at the center of the comet has broken up into nothing more than a cloud of dust. Direct confirmation of ISON’s disintegration must await spacecraft observations in the next few days.

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