CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., (Reuters) – A smaller, paler version of Comet ISON may have survived incineration in the sun’s corona and may be brightening, scientists said yesterday.
Since its discovery in September 2012, Comet ISON has been full of surprises. It started off extremely bright, considering its great distance from the sun at the time, beyond Jupiter’s orbit.
As it drew closer, it did not brighten as much as expected, raising doubts about its size and the amount of water it contained. Ice in a comet’s body vaporizes from solar heating, causing a bright stream of particles to trail the body in a distinctive tail.
Conflicting pictures of the comet’s future continued until Thursday when ISON apparently flew too close to the sun. Its long tail and nucleus seemingly vaporized in the solar furnace, dashing hopes of a naked-eye comet visible in Earth’s skies in December.
But late on Thursday, ISON surprised again.
“A bright streak of material streaming away from the sun appeared in the European Space Agency and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory later in the evening,” NASA wrote on its website on Friday.