Changing Planet

Comet ISON Barnstorms Sun

Space buffs get to watch Comet ISON’s close shave with the sun today, courtesy of one of NASA’s space-based solar monitoring observatory.

The day of reckoning has finally arrived for Comet ISON, as it slingshots around the sun and we find out whether it survives roasting.

Comet ISON today reaches its closest point of approach to the sun, its “perihelion,” at around 1:44 pm EST (18:44 GMT) today. The frozen snowball from the solar system’s outer reaches will pass within 724,000 miles (1.65 million kilometers) of the sun’s fiery surface.

While the comet is now lost in the glare of the sun, making it dangerous to watch as it makes its hairpin turn around the sun in the sky, the cosmic spectacle can be safely enjoyed online courtesy of high-resolution, near-live views from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

From 1 pm to 3:30 pm EST Thursday join solar scientists on a Google+ Hangout and follow the journey of Comet ISON as it whips around the sun.

Live streaming video by Ustream

The comet has grown more than ten times brighter in recent days. As it plunges through the sun’s outer atmosphere, the comet’s icy nucleus will begin to experience intense gravitational forces and temperatures that reach as high as 5000 degrees Fahrenheit  (2760 degrees Celsius).  Check out this amazing animation from NASA’s SOHO spacecraft  showing the comet only 2 hours before its closest approach to the sun.

No one knows if the comet will remain intact under these hellish conditions—but sky watchers hope that it emerges as a bright comet in the morning sky in early December.

Stay tuned for more updates post-perihelion.

Update: Astronomers continued looking for Comet ISON late in the day on Thursday but NASA released a statement around 6:00 pm EST suggesting that the comet has likely fizzled, burning up on its close approach to the sun.

Update # 2: Back from the Brink? As of 9 pm EST latest images beamed back from NASA’s SOHO satellite (see below) clearly shows that Comet ISON – or remnants of- have against all odds survived its trip around the sun. Could it be that all that remains is a fragment of the nucleus or is it a headless comet now? Talk about a zombie comet! Next 24 hours will  tell the story.

NASA's SOHO satellite captures ISON as it plunges towards the sun and re-emerges on the other side on November 28. Credit: NASA
NASA’s SOHO satellite captures ISON as it plunges towards the sun and re-emerges on the other side on November 28. Credit: NASA


Update # 3: As of 1 pm EST, November 29th, Comet ISON appears to have returned from the dead and is brightening again according to new images beamed back from NASA’s SOHO satellite. Scientists believe the comet’s nucleus began to fall apart as it skirted the sun but enough of it has apparently survived so that it’s emitting dust and gas that is forming a tail once again as its pulling away from the sun.

ISON appears as a white smear heading up and away from the sun. ISON was not visible during its closest approach to the sun, so many scientists thought it had disintegrated, but images like this one from the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory suggest that a small nucleus may be intact. Credit: ESA/NASA/SOHO/GSFC
ISON appears as a white smear heading up and away from the sun. ISON was not visible during its closest approach to the sun, so many scientists thought it had disintegrated, but images like this one from the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory suggest that a small nucleus may be intact. Credit: ESA/NASA/SOHO/GSFC


Expert astrophotographer Babak Tafreshi has edited an HD video from NASA satellite imagery that shows ISON’s hair-raising solar encounter.  He predicts there still may be a sky show of some sort still possible.

“It seems the comet could become a naked eye object with several degrees of scattered tail by Dec 2nd or 3rd,” Tafreshi said in an email.

“It’s not the comet of the century for sure, and fainter than the Lovejoy sungrazer in Dec. 2011, but an interesting imaging target is just a few nights away!”


Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter and Facebook.


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.
  • mathew tarimo

    yes, one of the worlds adventures.

  • mathew tarimo

    one of the most wonders of the world. let us see. bravo NASA.. we like your work a lot. let it be not the symptoms of the end of the world… sincerely

  • mathew ainea tarimo

    i like it. fantastic and very educative. suppose it might not happen the NASA thinks… only that we should not set aside the truth of GOD.

  • Randy

    Worked for HUGHES AND RAYTHEON. Today we have such great cameras to capture wonderful images.. I remember telstar and so many of the others with crappy resolution. We build galileo and many others and each generation getting better.

  • Mohamed Ehab

    will the comet be destroyed by 28th Nov. when it is close to the sun or not

  • Huber

    We observed a comet like flash in our sky last night around 10:00 PM, very large and bright visible for approx. two seconds, much bigger and brighter than shooting star. Could this have been ISON or remains of?

  • Bruce Voigt
  • Ann Graham

    I am positive i saw part of the comet (it had a white blob followed by a tail) near the horizon to the south east of where i live, at just after 8am Friday 29th british time. it came in from the right in a straight line then looked like it fell through the clouds.Could I have seen part of Ison or was it my imagination.

  • nunnbtr

    Guys the comet will not appear as a flash or shooting star…if one sees it in the next few days it will appear stationary to us and only move across the visible night sky day to day, week to week

  • tali

    SOHO is not a NASA spacecraft. Get your facts right.



  • Marietta Alexander

    This comet is unique; many prophecies suggest it has a destiny beyond the natural; it defies death like the Son of God Himself, it will come into the vicinity of Earth to be the cause of many events and in the end; finish with the Rapture of the true Bride of Christ.

  • Rajesh kumar Pankaj

    Is there any chance it hits earth?

  • Gokul

    Watch out for Dec/12/2013. 13 days left for a new beginning!

  • Charlotte Armster

    I believe i saw the comet – was the brightest thing i have ever seen in the sky. Night was clear, it was about 9:00 pm mountain time, and one hour later it was very low on the horizon, but it could still be seen for a little while, then it disappeared. Was it Ison? What else?

  • Charlotte Armster

    Amendment to my earlier comment: i saw what i believe was the comet on Thursday night, November 23, 2013.

  • BeachN

    I am not liking the predicted path that I am seeing here of Ison as it passes us once again ….Please view this and comment..

  • kari

    We are ALL going to die!™

  • Chasmosaurus

    : ) It’s not hitting us – It’s passing straight north of us (by millions of miles). Look at the next graphic down on the stereo-ssc site.

  • Chinwi

    The comet was halfway gone at perihelion due to solar winds and survived to reappear passing the Sun. Then yesterday it faced huge stream of solar wind and now the particles in the nucleus are completely washed away . Now it is in out memories.

  • MarkCyst

    Not to worry, BeachN, the path may look like it’s intersecting from overhead, but it’s only a matter of perspective (good thing space is 3D). If you look at the same animated graphic, you’ll notice that the side view is synched in time with the overhead view. From that side view, you’ll notice how the trajectory of what’s left of ISON will be heading far above the planet’s orbit, about 15º off the plane of the solar horizon on Dec 30 (measured from the solar center), with the Earth’s orbit essentially in line with the Z-axis at 0º. Similarly, you’ll notice that it appears as though the paths intersect on ISON’s approach in the side-view, however, you’ll notice that the Earth is still about 50º off to the left of it’s trajectory when it passed along the the Earth’s orbital track on Nov 1. If we view things from a different angle, it would paint a completely different picture and you’d wouldn’t think twice about it.

    Simply put, the comet’s remains are projected to be off 40 million miles at it’s closest point to earth (which will actually be on Dec 26). In any case, that’s a pretty wide berth.

  • Sarah Arnold

    Nobody is dying,except for that comet.

  • Sarah Arnold

    Well,the surface of earth burns most of everything that is heading towards here,so nobody freak out,or else you’ll die of anxiety

  • Sarah Arnold

    Oh!!please,Gokul,it’s 2014 now and the earth isn’t destroyed. The is not going to have a new begging,until God comes back.duuuuh!

  • Abby


  • manish sahani

    Sun comet made it how living in next generation living styles.we are come our fundamental death or living mystery nearly….”
    Mksahani, india

  • Anacaren

    HAHAHAHAHA!!!!Sarah and Abby crack me up.

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