ISON, a “virgin” comet on its first plunge from the Ort Cloud, may have survived its Dec. 1 swing around the backside of the sun at a minuscule (in astronomical terms) distance of 1 million miles.
ISON consists primarily of ice, which enhances its brightness but makes it more fragile. Astronomers had predicted a chance that ISON might break up due to the gravitational forces from its close encounter with the sun.
ISON did not reappear on telescopes searching for it, so on Dec. 12, the European Space Agency declared ISON’s death.
On Dec. 13, that death decree was retracted as “something” was then seen leaving a tail behind it heading toward Earth from the sun. At press time, whether ISON survived intact or is merely a portion of its former self remains to be seen.
Watch the eastern skies, near the horizon, and you may yet see what was originally forecast to be the most spectacular celestial show during mankind’s existence.
For the back story, see Spectacular Celestial Displays Coming.