Sky watchers around the world were disappointed yesterday when early reports coming from the European Space Agency and others declared that the comet ISON hadn’t survived its close brush with the sun. That meant that the hopes of a comet so bright it was visible in the day were dashed for sky watchers the world over.
However, it seems that that report of the death of ISON may have been premature. While the comet didn’t reemerge from behind the sun intact, it appears that a small portion of the comet may have survived the scrape with the sun. Recent pictures of the comet have indicated a brightening of what appears to be a small fragment of the comet.
However, the excitement over even a small portion of the comet surviving is tempered with caution. Scientists say that the small portion could brighten, or it could die altogether.
Astrophysicist Karl Battams from the Sungrazing Comets Project said:
“We’ve been following this comet for a year now and all the way it has been surprising us and confusing us,” said astrophysicist Karl Battams, who operates the US space agency-funded Sungrazing Comets Project.
“It’s just typical that right at the end, when we said, ‘yes, it has faded out, it’s died, we’ve lost it in the Sun’, that a couple of hours later it should pop right back up again.”
Experts from the Esa also say that a small part of ISON’s nucleus may be intact. Exactly how much of the comet, originally 2km wide, remains is unknown. Battams is calling for “a couple of days” for scientists to examine photos and see how bright the comet is and how the brightness might change.