Comet ISON Is Coming

  • Released Tuesday, March 26th, 2013
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:52PM

Comet ISON could put on quite a show later this year. Come November this frozen body traveling from the outer reaches of the solar system will pass within 1.1 million miles of the sun's fiery surface. What happens next will either be a magnificent spectacle or a grand disappointment. If the comet survives its trip around the sun, dust and volatile gases liberated from its icy interior will intensify the glow of its bright halo and long tail—offering stargazers a visual feast. Alternatively, the sun's immense gravity could disintegrate the comet just as it would become most visible from Earth. Scientists think this is the comet's first journey through the inner solar system, so there's a good chance it could be loaded with material ready to be lit up by the sun's energy. Expectations are high that the comet could even be seen in daylight, possibly shining as bright as the moon. Watch the video to learn more.

Comet ISON was discovered on Sep. 21, 2012. This false-color image was taken a day later by astronomers at the Remanzacco Observatory.

Comet ISON was discovered on Sep. 21, 2012. This false-color image was taken a day later by astronomers at the Remanzacco Observatory.

By Feb. 2013, the comet had already developed a visible halo and tail.

By Feb. 2013, the comet had already developed a visible halo and tail.

On Nov. 28, 2013, Comet ISON will loop around the sun. This image shows its predicted trajectory as seen by NASA's STEREO A spacecraft.

On Nov. 28, 2013, Comet ISON will loop around the sun. This image shows its predicted trajectory as seen by NASA's STEREO A spacecraft.

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Credits

Please give credit for this item to:
Science@NASA and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Cover and false-color image courtesy of E. Guido, G. Sostero, N. Howes/ Remanzacco Observatory
Comet image courtesy of Rolando Ligustri