The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officially released the dazzling image of the 2013 Comet ISON that Hubble Space Telescope was able to capture last April 30, 2013. The image showed Comet ISON speeding its way close to planet Earth with a visible tail and spectacular background.
"All five images were captured by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 UVIS instrument. Three exposures were made with a filter that transmits yellow and green light... while two used a filter that lets in red and some near-infrared light," the scientists stated.
Josh Sokol of the Space Telescope Science Institue in Baltimore, Maryland posted on a blog that the image's result was "part science, part art." Mr Sokol further added, "It's a simulation of what our eyes, with their ability to dynamically adjust to bright and fainter objects, would see if we could look up at the heavens with the resolution of Hubble."
During the time that Hubble captured the comet's image, ISON was located somewhere between the planet Jupiter and the Asteroid Belt. The C/2012 S1, or Comet ISON, has a nucleus of approximately 3-4 miles in diameter and identified as a sun-grazing comet since its orbit approaches very close to the Sun.
"Comet ISON is a sungrazer. The orbit of the comet will bring it very close to the sun, which we know can be a spectacular thing," Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab explained. As the comet moves toward the inner solar system, its icy nucleus will heat up and trails of vapor rises off its surface to send off over 200 million kilograms of microscopic dust particles daily while its tail, which is a strip of gas and dust from it frozen nucleus, will increase as well beyond its existing length.
Comet ISON will make its closest pass at the solar surface just 724,000 miles (1.16 million kilometers) on November 28. In early December, spectators can see the Comet ISON at night and morning skies until it passes by Earth on December 26 at a distance of 39.6 million miles.
The Russian astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok discovered Comet ISON in September 2012. The name for the fast-approaching comet comes from the night-sky survey program called International Scientific Optical Network.
"The Comet ISON is significant - perhaps even the Comet of the Century. Around this time, ISON might be as bright as a full moon," researchers claimed. However, Don Yeomans of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program believed it is still early to tell.
"I'm old enough to remember the last 'Comet of the Century.' In 1973, a distant comet named Kohoutek looked like it would put on a great show, much like ISON. It fizzled. Comets are notoriously unpredictable," Yeomans shared.
Even though Comet ISON may not appear the way that the scientists hope, astronomers and scientists, as well as public viewers, were starting to prepare in observing the approaching comet, especially during its peak time in the later part of 2013. The released NASA image of the 2013 Comet ISON served as an exciting foretaste of what spectators can expect up in the skies later this year.