Changing Planet

Photo: Hubble Gets First Glimpse of Possible ‘Comet of the Century’

Hubble space telescope snaps detailed view of faraway comet ISON on April 10, 2013. Credit: NASA, ESA, J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute), and the Hubble Comet ISON Imaging Science Team


Hubble has taken its first close-up views of the much anticipated and potential ‘comet of the century’. On the night of April 10th, the space telescope snapped an image in visible light of Comet ISON while it was still at a whopping distance of 394 million miles from Earth (386 million miles from the Sun)- a bit closer than the orbit of Jupiter. (See also: New Comet Found; May Be Visible From Earth in 2013)

While today it is only faintly visible as a fuzzy speck of light in large telescopes,  by end of November this year hopes are that ISON may briefly get as bright as the Moon in the sky.

Using the newly obtained Hubble data, astronomers estimate that the dirty snowball measures 3 to 4 miles wide, while the gas and dust filled coma that surrounds the nucleus stretches out approximately 3,100 miles in diameter – wider than the Australian continent.

Clearly visible on this new Hubble photo is the ghostly dust tail pointing away from the Sun, extending more than 57,000 miles. This iconic, ethereal feature of all comets form from  surface material being ejected at high speeds into space.

As comet ISON heads towards the Sun over the next few months,  the frozen surface of the nucleus will continue to warm up and melt. The Sun’s heat evaporates ices in the nucleus into jets of gases and dust, forming  the snowball-like coma – which, by the way, is slowly getting denser and wider as the comet approaches the Sun.
(Related :New Comet Discovered—May Become “One of Brightest in History”)

Astronomers believe that this may be ISON’s first trip into the inner solar system, coming from the far outer reaches of the solar system, from a frozen reservoir of billions of hibernating comets.  Based on orbital calculations, as the Sun’s gravity pulls in the comet,  it’s trajectory will take it uncomfortably close to the Sun on November 28.  In fact it will plunge within  700,000 miles of the fiery surface of our star before heading back out to the outer solar system and hopefully begin to put on a sky show.

So the big question on everyone’s mind now is – will ISON spectacularly light up our late autumn skies or will it fizzle- out and disintegrate as it dive bombs the Sun?  Time will tell.

Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.
  • Paul Felix Schott

    More small ones Asteroids to Impact

    Father like son both Archimedes and his Father Phidias the Astronomer were well know to all wise men of their day that studied the Heavens Above. Long ago Wicked men dried to wipe out Archimedes and his Father Phidias from the History Books.

    More small ones very likely large ones less likely without notice with all the eyes looking to the Heavens Above.

    The PLANETARY DEFENSE is not to protect Earth from men from Mars.
    It is for all mankind with most all Nation in on it to stop if can most all collision with EARTH from a ASTEROID IMPACT. It is if you will a AVOIDANCE SHIELD. “N.E.O.S. Near Earth Object Shield”.

    If only one were to hit or IMPACT EARTH on land get ready for a winter you will never forget. The winter from 1883 -1884 KRAKATOA you will think was a little pebble, and now the stone comes. Krakatoa was a great mountain till it erupted with fire and a blast heard thousands of miles away that cast that Great Mountain into the sea. The Shock Waves were felt around the Globe. The sea was full of Bodies from the Tsunamis more then 35,000 of them, the sea stayed red for weeks. 1884 was a year without a summer as the year 1816 was and many world wide Froze to Death from the KRAKATOA Event.

    A Shock Wave was felt in England from a Event about 7:15 to 7:20 A.M. Siberia time in the morning in June of the year 1908 high in the sky above the Forest in the remote wilderness of Tunguska Siberia heard an explosion that laid flat more than 800 square miles of the forest with all the trees pointing away from the center of the blast with most all the trees laying on their side. Some trees that were right below the blast were still there looking like telephone poles with no bark or branches left on them. This Asteroid did not even hit the Ground and this is known by most as the TUNGUSKA EVENT. For all that lived there it was WORMWOOD Rev 8:11 the wood became full of worms and the rivers water no longer sweet and undrinkable.

    If a Meteor Shower is big enough you might think all the Stars are falling from Heaven.

    About one every 100 years makes it into the Earth’s Atmosphere big enough for all to take note. Some make it to the surface the signs are all over the Planet and moon from the ones that have.

    If you need a visual sign of a collided impact with a planet look to

    “SHOEMAKER – LEVY 9” July 1994.

    and it was found only a year before in 1993.
    The impacts lasted for hours and some pieces were over a mile in diameter.

    You Need More Look up “PROJECT WORMWOOD” Revelations 8: 10 – 11 based on the “TUNGUSKA EVENT” 1908

    MOSCOW Russia is now saying it will use missiles to intercept Asteroid if need be.

    Better to be safe then sorry.


    Read the one and only book that will really matter the Bible
    While you still can,
    and May our Lord GOD Bless all that do so.
    John 14 : 6
    Luke 13 : 27
    Matthew 7 : 20 – 27

    Matthew 12:39

    Matthew 24:3 – 14

    The Lord’s Little Helper.
    Paul Felix Schott.

    December 2013 the Heavens above COMET “C/2012 S1”, “ISON”.

    The day will come when

    ALL ON EARTH WILL SEE THIS NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE. the night side of earth will become day and and day will be blinding bright. The Bow Shock from the Photo Electric Effect from the Sun’s Solar Wind will really be something.

    Shortly there after you will think the stars are falling from the Heavens,
    REV 6:13,
    REV 16:21
    most will be between 60 to 80 pounds that will make it to the ground surface. Nonstop 12 to 14 hours at a time for two days. You do not want to be by tall building if a big enough one hit the Earth.

    Help others in are Lord’s name Jesus Christ help bring all to know him while you still can.Three kings that were wise men once flowed a star with a long tail 2,000 years ago. That lead them to Jesus Christ wise men still look to and hear are Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Louis Morelli

    ISON is an errant comet going to die like any spermatozoon that had failed to fecundate the ovule. Emitted by giant volcanoes of pulsars (the astronomic male counterpart) they are driven towards quasars (the female astronomic counterpart) containing black holes (the astronomic ovule). Unfortunately we can’t analyse the matter composing is nucleus, which should be a good opportunity for testing these suggestions from Matrix/DNA astronomical model, by which, the properties of life seen at biological systems came from a half-living galaxy. Poor ISON, but… few spermatozoons gets their goal…

  • Jim Baughman

    Would be nice to see some comparisons with super-comets from the past, such as Ikeya-Seki in 1965. How bright was I-S when it was as far out as ISON currently is? I’m hoping for a similar display, but will take what I am given. I saw Ikeya-Seki, quite visible through a layer of cirrus cloud, and of course we had Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp not so long ago.

  • Kathryn Love

    I saw that last one a WHILE ago with my mom from our homes and we used to go up to the park and eat in the care and watch the comet. Mom is gone just recently. I think mom sent this one to say she’s ok.

    I can believe what I want :).

  • Lynn

    Should be spectacular! If it survives its close encounter with the Sun (which it should due to its size), it should put on quite a display on the way back out. Northern hemisphere observers should get quite a show. BTW: on its way in, its path will cross the Earth’s orbit causing a possible (brand new) meteor shower in early 2014. But who knows, comets are like cats: they have tails and do what ever they want!

  • Lynn

    Instead of naming it ISON, it should be named “Novevskinok” after its discovers: Novichonok and Neveski…;-)

  • G Coldham

    COMET is a warehouse—-is it ? Wha’ evah !

  • frank

    That’s most likely the comet of chastisement from Jesus that will hit the ocean and cause a catastrophe because of man’s sins. Repent now people.

  • Mario Ortiz

    What is the frozen reservoir of billions of hibernating comets?

  • Daniel C. Martinez

    Many people commenting here must be on heavy drugs. Drugs are bad for your health, please quit for our sake.

  • Max

    @Paul Felix Schott
    haha you’re funny… silly troll.

  • thomas

    The “floating reservoir” is the Kuiper Belt, which is a belt of comets just beyond Pluto.

  • BD Gogol

    What exactly is getting denser and wider? the coma or the nucleus.

    • As the comet gets closer to the Sun, activity on the surface increases – evaporating more material which then forms the coma around the nucleus – making it denser and larger.

  • Gord Smith

    Life as itself is not a sure thing but a non specific time that we share with everything else around us. we should feel fortunate that we are able to experience it for as long as we are given.

  • Mudassar

    What is the speed of this comet at which it is travelling now ?

  • Professor Anaxagoras

    It’s the KYPHER Belt Thomas. One of these days we’ll hear about the one NONE of us wants to hear about—Wormwood.

  • Dr. J

    Thank you, Daniel Martinez. An astute comment and most aptly stated.

  • Dr. J

    Frank, old Prof. Anaxagoras is correct. The name of “Jesus’s” comet is not ISON, it’s “bitter” or, as Revelation states, “Wormwood.” And this one isn’t even coming close to us. Whew-WEE!! Doomsday nuts!

  • Dr. J

    Novichonok and Neveski, when their complimentary syllables are combined, form the linguistic Russian equivalent of the Latin root “ISON.”

  • Dr. J

    Mr. Morelli,
    Quasars do not contain black holes. They are the very powerful gamma ray jets of supermassive black holes, the furthest objects we can observe, which happen to be facing our view. Looking sidelong (horizontally) at these we see nothing. And, BTW, analyze is the correct spelling. Not a criticism, ole son, just thought a feller of your obvious intellect would want to know . . .

  • Dr. J

    Well, I’m signing off but wanted to thank Paul Felix Schott for his pontificating about Krakatoa and the ancient Greek astronomers. More than that, the sermon was awe-inspiring. The message of Christ has a place and a time, but if you offend more folks than you inspire, is that being a good servant of our Lord?

  • Dr. J

    Oh one more thing “Lord’s Little Helper” PFS—if you look REAL hard and long at ISON, maybe you’ll follow it to the birthplace of the Antichrist and you can warn us all via another comet BLOG, BLAG, BLAH-BLAH-BLAH. I was too hard on you man, I know you mean well. May God bless you and all who love Him. Still, I say there’s a time and a place for the Gospel, and this ain’t it (in my opinion, which is—of course—not worth two cents). 🙂

  • frank

    Wow Dr. J is a bit angry wouldn’t you say people? Wormwood and ISON are just Jesus’ name and Man’s name for it. Your point is debunked by Dr. Frank.

  • nancy smith

    daniel martinez, some of us are on ‘light drugs’, we relish the sensory impact of photons that rarely fall upon the wonder of wonders, humanity. we might as well take it, we cant change it, b’cuz if we do, we mess up what might have been! Haley’s C was such a disappointment, and i want to see one good one before i rejoin the universal dust cloud again.

  • Alazaye Fuller

    i am looking forward to this comet because I missed Halley’s and i will be long gone by the next time it comes around in the mid 2060’s

  • Ed M.

    to ‘thomas’ and ‘Mario Ortiz’ – The Kuiper Belt is indeed the origin of many comets, but this one may have come from the Oort Cloud.

  • trimfeld

    Kuiper Belt is correct. Look it up. (Maybe it’s different in Greek.)

  • C Smythe

    Seriously? A sermon? Crikey. . . Sigh, will we ever enter the modern world free of superstitions and phony science? Look, people, the is no such thing as gods, ghosts, alien ufos or big foot. Now go back to work and make the world a better place!

  • Elisafortise

    Thanks Dr. J and C Smythe for your comments concerning another inappropriate time and place for religious voo-doo. I can’t express how tired I am of religious fanatics in this country. Would be nice just to read the rest of these intelligent comments without the always present zealots who think the earth was created at the same time the Egyptians were actually creating ink.

  • johnnboyzim

    I can’t believe Obama care covers us looking at comets now? Just try to take away my 30th Ammendment rights to colonize this asteroid, or comet, or whatever you Libs want to call it. I will go there since my mass will be only 12 pounds and I won’t have to diet anymore, but I can make $72 a day working from home, just like a local mom did!

  • Josh Jay

    Seriously lets post comments pertaining to the article people, it’s awesome to read comments from people who have things to say that are ACTUALLY related to this topic. But don’t spam it with your stupid nonsense. Not the proper time or place. Everybody who reads your 1000 word rant/post is rolling they’re eyes thinking “another quack that just has to post about conspiracies, religion, apocalypse etc etc…since you guys have so much time on your hands if you don’t understand this look it up…guys STFU already..comment appropriately pertaining to the article.

  • Chas

    What is it about comets that brings out all of the Jesus freaks? It’s just a comet, people…or perhaps I should say sheeple?

  • Paul Felix Schott

    Ron Suggs at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center watched the largest ever seen in the last 200 years or more Moon impact explosion March 17, 2013.


    DECEMBER 24 – 26, 2013




    680 – 685AD

    348 AD


    As it was in Noah’s day nobody would listen to him giving the warning.
    Many thought it was funny till the rain water from the Comet would not stop for days on end.
    Very Sad for many will be sorry.

    Pray for your love ones and lead them to our LORD while you can.

    Matthew 24:37

    The Lord’s Little Helper
    Paul Felix Schott

    May 16, 2013


    Earth will be going right through its tail path in January 2014

  • Danny

    This is Comet Cezar of 2013 y, return to 1056 years.
    1750 BC-death civilization on the Creta by King Minos (Greece) ,44 BC-death Julius Cezar in Roma,987 y,2013,y…
    Black Comet All Times!
    Great black Death for civilization for Europa!

  • Harry Evans

    The wife asked me; “What’s a comet?”
    I said; “It’s a star with a tail.”
    She said; “Name one then?”
    I said; “Lassie.”

    Seriously this comet may rival . The Great September Comet of 1882 — This comet is perhaps the brightest comet that has ever been seen; a gigantic member of the Kreutz Sungrazing Group. First spotted as a bright zero-magnitude object by a group of Italian sailors in the Southern Hemisphere on Sept.1, this comet brightened dramatically as it approached its rendezvous with the sun.

    By Sept. 14, it became visible in broad daylight and when it arrived at perihelion on the 17th, it passed at a distance of only 264,000 miles (425,000 km) from the sun’s surface. On that day, some observers described the comet’s silvery radiance as scarcely fainter than the limb of the sun, suggesting a magnitude somewhere between -15 and -20!

    The following day, observers in Cordoba, Spain described the comet as a “blazing star” near the sun. The nucleus also broke into at least four separate parts. In the days and weeks that followed, the comet became visible in the morning sky as an immense object sporting a brilliant tail. Today, some comet historians consider it as a “Super Comet,” far above the run of even Great Comets.

    The source of my information is from Joe Rao an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium.

  • Evan Hildebrandt

    Watch this and then say “its just a comet” This is some pretty incedible information about what comets really are! Amazing! r

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