There's Hope for 'Comet of the Century'

ISON may have survived trip around sun after all
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 29, 2013 11:57 AM CST
There's Hope for 'Comet of the Century'
In a composite image provided by NASA, Comet ISON nears the sun in an image captured at 10:51am Eastern Standard Time on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013.   ((AP Photo/ESA&NASA SOHO/SDO))

(Newser) – A comet that gained an earthly following because of its bright tail visible from space was initially declared dead after essentially grazing the sun. Now, there is a silver of hope that Comet ISON may have survived. New images, basically faint smudges on a screen, being analyzed today showed a streak of light moving away from the sun that some said could indicate it wasn't game over just yet. ISON had been called the "comet of the century," and it could put on quite a show next month if it did indeed survive.

"It certainly appears as if there is an object there that is emitting material," said Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The European Space Agency, which had declared ISON's death on Twitter late yesterday, was backtracking early today, saying the comet "continues to surprise." Images from other spacecraft yesterday showed a light streak continuing past the sun, but a NASA solar physicist said that was most likely a trail of dust continuing in the comet's trajectory. However, instead of fading, that trail appeared to get brighter today, suggesting that "at least some small fraction of ISON has remained in one piece," US Navy solar researcher Karl Battams wrote on his blog. (Read more comet stories.)

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