Comet ISON passes Mercury on its trip towards the sun

Oct 4, 2013
Comet ISON passes Mercury on its trip towards the sun

It's been a bit over a year since we first got word that a new comet had been discovered that might be the brightest comet seen from the Earth in decades. The reason comet ISON was so exciting for scientists is because it will pass incredibly close to the sun and could put on one of the brightest light shows ever seen from the surface of the Earth. That is assuming the sun doesn't destroy the comet during its close pass.

This week ISON flew past Mars on its way to that Thanksgiving Day encounter with the sun. ISON made its closest approach to Mars on October 1 and was about 6.5 million miles from the red planet. That sounds like a lot of miles, but that is reportedly six times closer than ISON will ever come to the earth.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was able to snap some pictures of the comet using the Hi Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera known as HiRISE. With a name like that you might expect an incredibly high resolution picture, but the picture you see above is what we have.

In that photograph, the comet is the flock of white dots in roughly the center of the image. NASA does point out that the image above wasn't taken on the comet's closest approach to Mars. Scientists are still unclear if Comet ISON will break up on approach to the sun or survive its brush with fiery death and shine bright in the night sky. There is a chance this comet will be viewable with the naked eye.


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