Watch the Sun All but Annihilate a Comet

ISON was supposed to be the “comet of the century.” Oh, well.

National Journal
Add to Briefcase
Brian Resnick
Dec. 3, 2013, 6:09 a.m.

The comet ISON was sup­posed to be vis­ible for much of Decem­ber, bright enough to see without a tele­scope. It would pos­sibly have been 15 times bright­er than the moon in the night sky, and might have in­spired lit­er­ary folk­lore and bad pop songs. But it might not any­more.

Like the fabled Icarus, this gi­gant­ic ball of ice all but dis­in­teg­rated as it passed with­in 730,000 miles of the sun on Thanks­giv­ing. As you can see in the video (from mul­tiple angles), the comet was greatly re­duced in size after it passed by the star. “The ques­tion re­mains,” NASA writes, “as to wheth­er the bright spot seen mov­ing away from the sun was simply debris, or wheth­er a small nuc­le­us of the ori­gin­al ball of ice was still there.”

The comet was 3 mil­lion years old. But NASA re­as­sures: “Re­gard­less of its fate, comet ISON did not dis­ap­point re­search­ers.”


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.