Comet ISON approaches sun for Thanksgiving flyby | Science News

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Comet ISON approaches sun for Thanksgiving flyby

Ancient traveler could stay intact or break up

4:09pm, November 27, 2013

UP CLOSE  Comet ISON (far lower right), nearing its closest approach to the sun, is captured here on November 27 by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. The sun has been blocked to make the comet visible, but a coronal mass ejection can be seen (lower right).

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As Comet ISON nears the end of its several-million-year journey toward the sun, NASA and the European Space Agency’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory has provided a view of its approach. The observatory and other telescopes will watch closely as the comet rounds the sun on Thanksgiving Day.

Scientists are eager to know whether the comet will survive or disintegrate; predictions of both fates have flown around over recent months. Astronomers believe ISON holds clues about the solar system’s distant past because it formed around the same time as the sun and planets (SN: 11/16/13, p.14).

Science News will post an update about ISON’s fate later this week.

On Thanksgiving Day, Comet ISON will make its closest pass by the sun. Scientists will watch to see whether the comet stays intact or disintegrates. The video shows 17 hours of the comet’s journey, starting on November 26, and captures a coronal mass ejection.

Credit: SOHO/NASA and ESA

Further Reading

G. Popkin. Oort cloud tosses astronomers a cometary curveball. Science News. Vol. 184, November 16, 2013, p. 14.

NASA Google hangout: Comet ISON live, Thursday November 28, 1–3:30 p.m.

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