NASA Gets Early Picture Of 'Comet Of The Century' Due This Year - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

NASA Gets Early Picture Of 'Comet Of The Century' Due This Year

Posted: Updated:

YAHOO.COM - A NASA spacecraft has captured its first photos of comet ISON, an icy wanderer that some scientists say could dazzle as a "comet of the century" when it swings through the inner solar system later this year.

The photos were taken by NASA's Deep Impact probe and reveal comet ISON as a bright, dusty ball moving against a star-filled background. The spacecraft snapped the pictures on Jan. 17 and Jan. 18 from a distance of about 493 million miles (793 million kilometers).

Comet ISON has been the focus of much anticipation among scientists and stargazers because of its potential to put on a spectacular display in late November, when it makes its closest approach to the sun. Some forecasts predict the comet could shine brighter than the full moon. As of mid-January, the comet's tail was more than 40,000 miles (64,400 km).

Some projections state that comet ISON, which is officially designated comet C/20012 S1 (ISON), could shine extremely bright in the nighttime sky, possibly even rivaling the full moon. Whether the comet will meet expectations or fizzle out remains to be seen, but it has already become a target for NASA and amateur astronomers. [Photos of Comet ISON in Night Sky]

"This is the fourth comet on which we have performed science observations and the farthest point from Earth from which we've tried to transmit data on a comet," Deep Impact project manager Tim Larson, of the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement Tuesday (Feb. 5) "The distance limits our bandwidth, so it's a little like communicating through a modem after being used to DSL. But we're going to coordinate our science collection and playback so we maximize our return on this potentially spectacular comet."

The Deep Impact spacecraft has flown close by two comets, Tempel 1 and Hartley 2, and taken detailed observations of another — comet Garradd —before turning its camera eyes on Comet ISON. The spacecraft used its Medium-Resolution Imager to snap pictures of ISON during a 36-hour period between Jan. 17 and 18, NASA officials said.

Comet ISON was discovered in September 2012 by Russian astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok using a 15.7-inch (0.4-meter) telescope of the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON), near Kislovodsk. The comet is most likely making its first trip through the inner solar system from the Oort cloud, a vast shell of icy objects at the outer edge of the solar system that extends one-third of the way to the nearest star, NASA scientists said.

 

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Carlton Complex: 71% contained; 251,698 acres burned

    Carlton Complex: 71% contained; 251,698 acres burned

    Thursday, July 31 2014 2:22 PM EDT2014-07-31 18:22:03 GMT
    OKANOGAN COUNTY, Wash. - The Carlton Complex is now 71% contained and is 251,698 acres in size. Firefighters are continuing the hot, difficult work of “mopping up” and strengthening the fire line, especially in the areas south of Highway 20 towards the summit of Loop Loop.>>
    OKANOGAN COUNTY, Wash. - The Carlton Complex is now 71% contained and is 251,698 acres in size. Firefighters are continuing the hot, difficult work of “mopping up” and strengthening the fire line, especially in the areas south of Highway 20 towards the summit of Loop Loop. >>
  • PHOTOS JUST IN: Devastation from Carlton Complex; 300 homes burned

    PHOTOS JUST IN: Devastation from Carlton Complex; 300 homes burned

    Saturday, July 26 2014 12:07 AM EDT2014-07-26 04:07:59 GMT
    TWISP, Wash. (AP) - The Okanogan County Sheriff says the Carlton Complex wildfire has many more homes than previously thought. Sheriff Frank Rogers said Friday that the Carlton Complex fire has consumed about 300 homes this month. His office previously placed the number at 150, but he said then he knew it would rise.>>
    TWISP, Wash. (AP) - The Okanogan County Sheriff says the Carlton Complex wildfire has many more homes than previously thought. Sheriff Frank Rogers said Friday that the Carlton Complex fire has consumed about 300 homes this month. His office previously placed the number at 150, but he said then he knew it would rise.>>
  • VIRAL VIDEO: Grab a tissue to watch how one bank is thanking its customers

    VIRAL VIDEO: Grab a tissue to watch how one bank is thanking its customers

    Thursday, July 31 2014 12:05 PM EDT2014-07-31 16:05:29 GMT
    KHQ.COM - TD Canada Trust was determined to thank their customers in a unique and memorable way. About halfway through this video you will understand why it has had millions of views. Grab a tissue for this touching video and hopefully watching this will serve as a reminder to all of us, that a little kindness can go a long way.>>
    KHQ.COM - TD Canada Trust was determined to thank their customers in a unique and memorable way. About halfway through this video you will understand why it has had millions of views. Grab a tissue for this touching video and hopefully watching this will serve as a reminder to all of us, that a little kindness can go a long way.>>
  • Top Stories from KHQTop StoriesMore>>

  • Mayor authorizes $26 million for police & fire vehicle/equipment needs

    Mayor authorizes $26 million for police & fire vehicle/equipment needs

    Thursday, July 31 2014 7:45 PM EDT2014-07-31 23:45:42 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane Mayor David Condon signed a resolution and ordinance on Thursday authorizing $26 million in funding for police and fire vehicle and equipment needs.Funding comes from property tax revenue that has been dedicated to paying for capital needs for public safety.>>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane Mayor David Condon signed a resolution and ordinance on Thursday authorizing $26 million in funding for police and fire vehicle and equipment needs.Funding comes from property tax revenue that has been dedicated to paying for capital needs for public safety.
    >>
  • 23-year-old man arrested for burglary, shooting in north Spokane County

    23-year-old man arrested for burglary, shooting in north Spokane County

    Thursday, July 31 2014 6:06 PM EDT2014-07-31 22:06:45 GMT
    SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. - A 23-year-old man was arrested Wednesday night after police say he burglarized a home in north Spokane County and fired a shot at the homeowner when confronted.>>
    SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. - A 23-year-old man was arrested Wednesday night after police say he burglarized a home in north Spokane County and fired a shot at the homeowner when confronted. Deputy Mark Gregory with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office told KHQ the homeowners returned to their house at around 6:00pm Wednesday and noticed their home had been burglarized.>>
  • Bonners Ferry man found unresponsive in jail

    Bonners Ferry man found unresponsive in jail

    Thursday, July 31 2014 5:57 PM EDT2014-07-31 21:57:24 GMT
    BOUNDARY COUNTY, Idaho - A Bonners Ferry man is dead after being brought into Boundary County Jail. Sheriff's deputies say the man died of an apparent suicide.>>
    BOUNDARY COUNTY, Idaho - A Bonners Ferry man is dead after being brought into Boundary County Jail. Sheriff's deputies say the man died of an apparent suicide. Deputies say 43-year-old David Erickson, was being arrested outside the courthouse for outstanding warrants out of Bonner County, became resistant and was tased. The Sheriff's Office told KHQ Erickson was cleared by ambulance personnel and he was taken to jail. >>