Peering deep into space as usual, the Hubble Space Telescope has captured the first images of comet ISON.
Billed as the “comet of the century” because it could, at one point, be brighter than the full Moon.
A lot of if’s surround this comet. If it is the right composition, if the water ratio is right, if the trajectory is correct, if it doesn’t breakup. Many questions, not so many answers. Since this is the first recorded pass of this comet in human history, nobody know for sure.
But getting the answers is all the fun!
The Hubble image above was taken on April 10, when the comet was slightly closer than Jupiter’s orbit at a distance of 386 million miles from the Sun. As you can see, the tail is longer than Hubble’s field of view.
Hubble was used to image the comet because it is still 4.15 astronomical units (386 million miles) from the Sun and about 4.24 astronomical units (394 million miles) from Earth. Even out there, the Sun is warming the comet enough to trigger outgassing jets of dust particles off the sunward-facing side of the comet.
Traveling at a mere 47,000 miles per hour, ISON should be visible in North America starting in late November thru December.
Let’s hope that this one lives up to the hype!
– Ex astris, scientia –
I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +