'Holiday Comet' Could Put on Dazzling Show

... or the sun could utterly destroy it on Thanksgiving
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 26, 2013 3:12 AM CST
In this photo provided by NASA, Comet ISON shows off its tail.   (AP Photo/NASA, Aaron Kingery)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – Stargazers might be in for a holiday treat: The comet ISON's million-year journey toward the sun will reach its climax on Thanksgiving, when it will either slingshot around the sun or be destroyed by solar radiation. If ISON survives, astronomers believe it could provide a spectacular show during December, becoming visible to the naked eye in broad daylight when at its brightest, the Washington Post reports. "On Friday, we’ll all be delighted to see its beautiful face as it then comes around the sun," predicts the director of NASA’s planetary science division. "Then between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it will fly over the North Pole—a very nice holiday comet."

ISON—discovered last year and dubbed the "Comet of the Century" by some astronomers—is a very rare visitor from the Oort cloud, a sphere of billions of icy objects that lies almost a light-year away, at the very edge of the sun's gravity. NASA has produced a moving graphic showing the comet's projected path if it survives its graze with the sun, and Space.com has an observers' guide. Even if the sun does break the comet to bits by boiling its ice, ISON's remains could end up in orbit, producing meteor showers. (Read more comet stories.)

My Take on This Story
Show results without voting  |