Comet ISON reappears, apparently survives close brush with the sun

Nov. 29, 2013 at 2:38 PM   |   Comments

GREENBELT, Md., Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Despite early reports of the "death" of Comet ISON as it rounded the sun Thursday, NASA astronomers now say a chunk of it may have survived.

Material from Comet ISON was observed emerging from the other side of the sun Thursday evening, despite not having been seen by telescopes during its closest approach to the sun, NASA reported Friday.

Those telescope observations convinced many scientists the comet had disintegrated completely, but then a streak of bright material streaming away from the sun appeared in the European Space Agency's and NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory later in the evening.

Scientists with NASA's Comet ISON Observing Campaign suggest there is at least a small nucleus that has remained intact.

"It now looks like some chunk of ISON's nucleus has indeed made it through the solar corona, and re-emerged," Karl Battams, a comet scientist for the Naval Research Laboratory, told CNN. "It's throwing off dust and [probably] gas, but we don't know how long it can sustain that."

Comet ISON was discovered in 2012 by two Russian astronomers and has since been tracked by spacecraft and ground observatories from many countries.

"From the beginning, ISON has confused, surprised and amazed us, and in hindsight its latest little escapade really should not shock us," Battams said.

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