Fireworks in Space - KMSP-TV

Fireworks in Space

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The Hubble Space Telescope is getting a firsthand look at a passing comet. The comet named ISON is hurtling toward the sun at a whopping 48,ooo mph which is roughly one eighth the distance between the Earth and moon. The comet is about 403 million miles from Earth right now and is between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Unlike a firework, the comet is not combusting, but in fact is pretty cold. Its skyrocket-looking tail is really a streamer of gas and dust bleeding off the icy nucleus, which is surrounded by a bright star-like-looking coma. The pressure of the solar wind sweeps the material into a tail, like a breeze blowing a windsock.

Don't get too excite just yet because you can't walk into your backyard tonight and see this comet. But as the comet warms as it moves closer to the sun, its rate of sublimation (a process similar to evaporation in which solid matter transitions directly into gas) will increase. The comet will get brighter and its tail will grow longer. This will make it far easier for us earthlings to see it as it gets closer to earth and current predictions show the comet in visibility range sometime in November

The comet is named after the organization that discovered it, the Russia-based International Scientific Optical Network. All of the information and pictures in this article are provided by NASA.

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