Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2013 November 30

Surprising Comet ISON
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, SOHO - Video Editing: Babak Tafreshi (TWAN)

Explanation: After failing to appear for Sun staring spacecraft at perihelion, its harrowing closest approach to the Sun, sungrazing Comet ISON was presumed lost. But ISON surprised observers yesterday as material still traveling along the comet's trajectory became visible and even developed an extensive fan-shaped dust tail. Edited and processed to HD format, this video (vimeo, youtube) is composed of frames from the SOHO spacecraft's coronographs. It follows the comet in view of the wide (blue tint) and narrow (red tint) field cameras in the hours both before and after perihelion passage. In both fields, overwhelming sunlight is blocked by a central occulting disk. A white circle indicates the Sun's positon and scale. With questions to be answered and the tantalizing possibility that a small cometary nucleus has survived in whole or part, surprising comet ISON will be rising before dawn in planet Earth's skies in the coming days.

Tomorrow's picture: galactic strike

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
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