Astronomers have used NASA’s Hubble telescope to capture a new image of comet ISON, the so-called ‘comet of the century.’
ISON, also known as C/2012 S1, is a sungrazing comet – a comet that passes extremely close to the Sun. It was discovered on September 21, 2012 by astronomers from Belarus and Russia.
The hyperbolic trajectory of the comet suggests that it is a dynamically new comet coming from the Oort cloud.
At the time of the ISON’s discovery, its apparent magnitude was about 18, far too dim to be seen with the naked eye.
The comet’s icy nucleus is estimated at less than 2 km in diameter. According to NASA scientists, the nucleus is almost certainly still intact despite some predictions that it might disintegrate as the Sun warms it.
Astronomers have already snapped pictures of ISON twice this year, but for some time the comet was temporarily blocked from view by the Sun.
In September, scientists reported the detection of ISON by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The comet passed 10,843,000 km from Mars on October 1, 2013.
On November 28, 2013, the comet will pass by the Sun with a distance of 1,860,000 km. It will be well placed for observers in the northern hemisphere during December 2013.
After perihelion, ISON will move north on the celestial sphere, passing within two degrees of Polaris on January 8, 2014.