European Space Agency, NASA

Satellite imagery shows ISON as it reappeared from behind the sun Thursday.

Comet may have survived perilous trip around the sun

Published: Friday, Nov. 29, 2013 - 6:01 pm

Hailed as the “comet of the century,” the comet ISON has apparently survived its encounter with the sun, NASA said.

The comet made a trip around the sun Thursday, within 730,000 miles of the sun’s surface, and re-emerged on the other side, satellite imagery shows.

Prior to the comet’s re-emergence, scientists had not seen ISON in satellite observations as it made its approach to the sun. Many scientists were predicting that it would not survive the trip intact.

But NASA and European Space Agency imagery from late Thursday and early Friday shows a streak of bright material streaming away from the sun. It remains to be seen whether that is debris from the comet’s fragmentation or a portion of the comet’s nucleus.

However, an analysis from scientists with NASA’s Comet ISON Observing Campaign suggest that there is at least a small nucleus intact.

The comet has aroused much interest at NASA and with amateur astronomers. ISON, if it has survived as the new satellite imagery suggests, will be visible only in the Northern Hemisphere.

The best viewing of the comet will be right before dawn or just after dusk. Its position in the sky will be low, near the horizon in east-southeast. As December progresses, ISON will move higher and higher.

The best viewing opportunities, if any, are expected to happen during the first and second week of December as the comet moves away from the sun.

Call The Bee’s Edward Ortiz, (916) 321-1071. Follow him on Twitter @edwardortiz.

Read more articles by Edward Ortiz

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