News / Science & Technology

NASA Captures First Images of ISON Comet

This is the orbital trajectory of comet C/2012 S1 (ISON). The comet is currently located just inside the orbit of Jupiter. In November 2013, ISON will pass less than 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) from the sun’s surface.
This is the orbital trajectory of comet C/2012 S1 (ISON). The comet is currently located just inside the orbit of Jupiter. In November 2013, ISON will pass less than 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) from the sun’s surface.
VOA News
NASA has captured the first images of a distant comet, which may give us a spectacular light show later this fall.

The images of comet C/2012 S1 (ISON), were taken by NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft from January 17 and 18 when the comet was 493 million miles away, according to a NASA release.

"This is the fourth comet on which we have performed science observations and the farthest point from Earth from which we've tried to transmit data on a comet," said Tim Larson, project manager for the Deep Impact spacecraft at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "The distance limits our bandwidth, so it's a little like communicating through a modem after being used to DSL. But we're going to coordinate our science collection and playback so we maximize our return on this potentially spectacular comet."

As comets approach, the sun’s energy warms them, releasing gas and dust which form a comet’s luminous tail. While ISON is still distant, NASA says it is already active, with a tail extending more than 40,000 miles form the comet’s nucleus. ISON is expected to come as close as 40 million miles to Earth on December 26 of this year.

ISON is known as a long-period comet. These can have orbits lasting hundred, thousands or even millions of years. NASA believes this is ISON’s first orbit, which means it is likely “laden with volatile material just spoiling for some of the sun's energy to heat it up and help it escape.” That could mean quite a show, but NASA cautions the comet could break up as well.

Would-be comets are thought to dwell in the solar system’s Oort cloud, something NASA calls a “giant spherical cloud of icy bodies surrounding our solar system so far away its outer edge.” When these bodies are disturbed by the gravitational effects of passing or nearby stars, they can be “nudged” from the cloud and begin their long orbits around the Sun.

ISON was discovered on Sept. 21, 2012, by two Russian astronomers using the International Scientific Optical Network's 16-inch (40-centimeter) telescope near Kislovodsk.

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by: Gary from: Davenport, Iowa
February 14, 2013 10:55 AM
Where was November 28th even mentioned. Please don't mistake an awesome celestial event with any bygone religous fundamental. It's insulting, if not cringe inducing.


by: Sean from: Pendle UK
February 12, 2013 5:07 PM
That observation about Chanukah being on the 28th of November got my attention........its my Birthday.
I am SO starting to get fascinated about this heavenly event too. I want to know as much as I can about it.


by: bruce from: USA Concord, DE
February 08, 2013 12:25 AM
It just so happens Nov 28th is the first day of Chanukah! God Himself will see to it that He lights this candle!


by: Steve from: US
February 07, 2013 12:30 PM
I had alot of people make fun of my original 2012 Comet website over the last 5 years. It turns out that I made a mistake because the Bible Codes always stated "Comet" before "2012". Of course (ISON's) real name is Comet 2012/S1 because it was found in the year 2012 and the first one found in September. So is there something to the Bible Codes predictions regarding this comet after all? I read in another article that the tail has been calculated to be 40,000 miles long!! But, it seems that NASA or no one else mentions the actual nuclei size?? Why Not?? That's a big tail and when the ice starts melting inside the nuclei the C02 gases could change the direction of this big mother. Will it turn toward earth? Read more: http://comet2012.com/comet-ison/

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