NASA keeps close watch as Comet ISON nears sun

By Liji Varghese | Last Updated: Monday, December 2, 2013 - 14:10

Zee Media Bureau/Liji Varghese

New Delhi: Astronomers and sky-watchers are keeping a close eye on Comet ISON as it prepares for the closest encounter with the sun on Thanksgiving.

The sungrazing comet will reach the perihelion (closest approach to the sun) approximately around 1835 GMT on Thursday, November 28.

Though the fate of the comet still remains uncertain, if it does survive the solar flares the `Comet of the century` will put up a spectacular show early December.

ISON comes from Oort cloud, a loose nebulous sphere containing billions of icy, rocky objects on the very edge of the solar system, where it has been for the last 4.6 billion years.

A sungrazer, ISON is among the very few comets to go through the corona of the sun. It will pass the Sun at a distance of just 1.2 million kms.

Astronomers fear that the comet might break apart or fizzle out as it passes close to the sun. The only hope that the astronomers are betting on is the size of the comet which might help it withstand the solar flares.

Some early observations did suggest that the comet has already broken up as it was getting dimmer. However, the comet which entered the view of the European Space Agency/NASA mission the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory in the Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph instrument in the early hours of November 27 looked quite brightened up once again.

NASA also released the video of Comet ISON moving ever closer to the sun captured in the early hours of November 27, 2013 by ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.

Watch the video here:

“Don`t look for ISON during the day on November 28. NASA spacecraft will watch it and we`ll post images here, including near real time images from SDO starting at 1745 GMT. As always, never look directly at the sun.” NASA posted on its website. “If it doesn`t break up, ISON will be visible near the horizon in early December. Look to the East before sunrise and to the Northwest after sunset.”

NASA solar physicists will also track the comet LIVE during #ISON’s closest approach to the sun and answer your questions on Google Hangout live from 1800 to 2030 GMT, or via Twitter using #ISON and #askNASA.

First Published: Thursday, November 28, 2013 - 10:28

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