Comet Ison Survives

November 29, 2013 by  

Comet Ison Survives, Astronomers tracking what they hoped would be the “comet of the century” say some of it may have survived its close encounter with the Sun.

It was first reported that the Comet Ison’s nucleus and tail had been destroyed by the Sun’s radiation and tidal forces but the European Space Agency (ESA) said the “story continues”.

The agency tweeted on Friday: “Well, well, seems reports of comet #Ison’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.”

The latest pictures appear to show a brightening of a chunk of the comet which has caused a surge in excitement among skygazers.

There was no sign of Ison in this Nasa Solar Dynamics Observatory picture
It is hard to know what has happened but experts say dust and gas are being released and the tail may be growing back.

If it is visible in the night sky, it is too soon to know how bright it will be or how long it will last.

Comet Ison, which had been hurtling through space at speeds of 845,000mph, was due to pass within 730,000 miles of the surface of the star last night at 6.37pm UK time.

It was expected to be met with temperatures of about 2,700C (4,892F) and an intense gravitational pull as it prepared for its solar slingshot.

Comet Ison hurtles towards the Sun at 845,000mph. Pic: ESA/Nasa/SOHO/SDO
On Thursday night a spokesman for Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) said: “We don’t think it survived because we don’t see any new dust.

“So we think it must have broken up and evaporated …”

Officially known as Comet C/2012 S1, Ison had been given a 30% chance of survival by Carey Lisse, of the US Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

Comets are frozen balls of space dust left over from the formation of stars and planets more than four billion years ago.

Ison is seen in a five-minute exposure from Marshall Space Flight Center
When one comes close to a hot star like the Sun, the icy core can melt.

If the comet has disintegrated completely, scientists hope they will be able to see its interior, allowing them to better understand its composition and search for clues to the solar system’s formation.

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