NASA's time-lapse of the Comet ISON shows it journeying towards the Sun, before it broke apart in 2013

ISON had a tail that was 20 times wider than the full Moon and its head was so bright that it could have been seen in the “pre-dawn eye with the unaided eye”.


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released a time-lapse of the Comet ISON making its way towards the Sun. The video has been made using images captured and sent to the space agency by Hubble Space Telescope back in 2013, just days before it met its end.

The small clip posted by NASA on Hubble telescope's official Twitter account featured the comet moving against the stars at great speeds. According to the space agency, when these images were captured, in May 2013, ISON was moving towards the Sun at over 77,000 kilometres per hour.

The tweet was shared to give a nod to ISON’s unfortunate fate when it “broke apart” while passing by the Sun in November 2013.

 NASAs time-lapse of the Comet ISON shows it journeying towards the Sun, before it broke apart in 2013

This new view of Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) was taken with the TRAPPIST national telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory on the morning of Friday 15 November 2013. Image credit; TRAPPIST/E. Jehin/ESO

The comet ISON was discovered in September 2012 and has ever since attracted huge fanfare. The reason behind its popularity was that scientists saw it moving towards the Sun and expected the already big comet to become even greater during its closest approach to the Sun.

However, derailing popular opinion, the icy comet could not handle being that close to the Sun and fell apart.

According to NASA, ISON had a tail that was 20 times wider than the full Moon and its head was so bright that it could have been seen in the “pre-dawn eye with the unaided eye”. Scientists believed that on 28 November 2013 when ISON neared perihelion, it would gather some solar heat and would become even more magnificent.

Karl Battams of NASA's Comet ISON Observing Campaign said that over 32,000 people had joined him and other scientists on a Google Plus Hangout to monitor ISON’s transformation live. However, as the comet neared the Sun, it brightened only to fade away.

Several cameras onboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory were recording ISON’s journey but suddenly nothing was being captured. Scientists think that the comet disintegrated during its approach and the fading remains of the comet became too small to be captured by the cameras.

So ISON bears testament to a unique specimen in the history of comet astronomy.


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