Science

NASA Snaps First Photos Of 'Comet Of The Century'

By Pierre Dumont , Apr 24, 2013 05:46 PM EDT

NASA has used the Hubble telescope to take the first photos of the Comet ISON in visible light, which may be the brightest object ever seen from our planet when it passes by in November.

According to NASA, once ISON passes its closes point to the sun on November 28 it will appear brighter than the moon for a short time. The comet is currently over 394 million miles away and heading toward the sun at about 47,000 miles per hour. While the core of the comet is only three to four miles in diameter, its tail is over 57,000 miles long and its head is about 3,100 miles wide.

"As a first-time visitor to the inner solar system, Comet C/ISON provides astronomers a rare opportunity to study a fresh comet preserved since the formation of the solar system," Planetary Science Institute Research Scientist Jian-Yang Li said. "The expected high brightness of the comet as it nears the sun allows for many important measurements that are impossible for most other fresh comets."

Researchers state that the size of the comet's core is small given its level of activity. When ISON reaches its closest point to the sun, it is expected to sublimate ice, gas, metals and silicates, burning with a brighter intensity than the moon.

The ISON comet is too dim to see with the naked eye right now, so we'll have to wait until November to catch the full show. In the meantime, enjoy this striking image of ISON from NASA.

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