Comet ISON may not be dead

Associated Press | AP Photo: NASA
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Comet ISON heading away from the sun

A smaller, paler version of Comet ISON may have survived incineration in the sun's corona and may be brightening, scientists said. See gallery

In this combination of three images provided by NASA, comet ISON appears as a white smear heading up and away from the sun on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 28-29. ISON was not visible during its closest approach to the sun, so many scientists thought it had disintegrated, but images like this one from the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory suggest that a small nucleus may still be intact.


Related: 'Zombie' comet ISON may be back from the dead



AP Photo: ESA & NASA
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Nearing the sun

In a composite image provided by NASA, Comet ISON nears the sun in an image captured at 10:51 a.m. EST on Thursday, Nov. 28. The sun was imaged by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, and an image from ESA/NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory shows the solar atmosphere, the corona.

AP Photo: NASA
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Comet Encke and ISON

In this image taken from enhanced video made by NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft, Comet ISON, at left, approaches the sun on Monday, Nov. 25. Comet Encke is shown just below ISON, with the sun at right just outside the frame. ISON, which was discovered a year ago, is making its first spin around the sun and came the closest to the super-hot solar surface at 1:37 p.m. EST on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 28.

AP Photo: NASA, Aaron Kingery
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97 million miles away

Comet ISON shines in this five-minute exposure taken at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center at 5:40 a.m. EST on Nov. 8.  At the time of this picture, Comet ISON was 97 million miles from Earth, heading toward the sun.

AP Photo: NASA, Cameron McCarty
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Shining brightly

Comet ISON shines brightly in this image taken Nov. 19. This is a 10-second exposure taken with the Marshall Space Flight Center 20-inch telescope in New Mexico. The camera is black and white, but the smaller field of view allows for a better "zoom in" on the comet's coma, which is essentially the head of the comet.

AP Photo: NASA
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ISON's solid nucleus

A Hubble Space Telescope image taken Oct. 9 shows the Comet ISON's solid nucleus. The new image of the sunward-plunging ISON suggests the comet is intact despite previous predictions that the fragile icy nucleus might disintegrate as the sun warms it. This color composite image was assembled using two filters. The comet's coma appears a greenish-blue color due to gas, while the tail is reddish due to dust streaming off the nucleus. The tail forms as dust particles are pushed away from the nucleus by the pressure of sunlight. The comet was inside Mars’ orbit and 177 million miles from Earth when photographed.

AP Photo: NASA, Aaron Kingery
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Showing off its tail

Comet ISON shows off its tail in this three-minute exposure taken at 6:10 a.m. EST on Nov. 19 using a 14-inch telescope located at the Marshall Space Flight Center. At the time of this image, Comet ISON was 44 million miles from the sun and 80 million miles from Earth, moving at a speed of 136,700 mph.

AP Photo: NASA
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View from Hubble

A contrast-enhanced image produced from the Hubble's images of comet ISON taken April 23 reveals the subtle structure in the inner coma of the comet. In this computer-processed view, the Hubble image has been divided by a computer model to reveal a coma that decreases in brightness proportionally to the distance from the nucleus, as expected for a comet that is producing dust uniformly over its surface. ISON's coma shows enhanced dust particle release on the sunward-facing side of the comet's nucleus, the small, solid body at the core of the comet. This information is invaluable for determining the comet's shape, evolution and spin of the solid nucleus.

AP Graphic
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Comets, asteroids and meteors

A primer on various objects in space and where they come from.

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