Hubble Spies Comet ISON On The Move

Comet ISON, discovered by two amateur astronomers last September, quietly streaks through space in this time-lapse sequence made in May.

I thought you’d like to see this short video of the year’s most anticipated comet. The 43-minute time-lapse, compressed to just 5 seconds, was made back on May 8 when the comet was 403 million miles from Earth between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. During the sequence, ISON travels 34,000 miles (55,000 km) or about four Earth diameters at a clip of 48,000 mph (77,000 km).

The particulars on Comet ISON when photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope on May 8, 2013. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

In the video we see ISON’s bright “false nucleus” within which spins the comet itself, a 3-mile-wide (5 km), misshapen hunk of dust-impregnated ice. Sunlight vaporizes the ice, releasing the dust and brushes it back to form the tail.

ISON will gradually brighten in the coming months, reaching naked eye visibility sometime in early November. For a complete and updated forecast on what to expect, click HERE.

8 Responses

  1. Karrie

    My question has nothing to do with the comet…sorry! It’s a photography question. We were in MN’s Northwest Angle last week and the sunsets were nothing short of magnificent…largely due to the haze (wildfire smoke?) that hung at the horizon. The sun turned a magenta color as it entered this layer. Shooting thru the viewfinder of my Nikon D5100 with my 300mm lens I was excited to add these to my sunset pictures. When we reviewed them from that first night, they were beautiful, yes; but the sun was sun-colored, not at all the beautiful color it was in real life. Interestingly, the reflection of the sun on the water stayed the magenta color. I toyed with the built in filters, etc, but could not change the color to what it was. My son on his Mac couldn’t get the sun to change color. I used my shorter lens the next night, and it was a little pinker, but not the brilliant magenta. Is this because the haze is blue-ish? Is there anything I could have done/used ( I don’t own any auxiliary filters…yet) to have gotten the camera to record how it really was?

    1. astrobob

      Hi Karrie,
      Great question. There are a couple things you can do. First, you can manually change the exposure to deliberately underexpose the images. My guess is that the colors didn’t show as well as you saw them with your eye because you may have overexposed them — easy to do because the sun’s disk is SO much brighter than anything else in the scene. You can also bring the colors back to what you saw in an imaging program like Photoshop, which allows you to subtract or add certain colors and tones to your picture. Do you have Photoshop? If so, I can coach you on what tools to use.

      1. Karrie

        On the Mac we have iPhoto, but we don’t actually have Photoshop. We have PictureIt too, an older version. I’d love some hints! I played with some exposures when I was shooting, as well as with the presets on the camera, but I didn’t think to underexpose the shots enough. I bracketed a few but it seemed to not make a difference. My husband said it was a good thing I sprung for the biggest HD SD card I could since I shot so many pix and he was also very glad I don’t shoot on film anymore 🙂 Thanks for the answer

        1. astrobob

          I also have iPhoto but have not used. Let me check into it and I’ll get back to you.

    2. Giorgio Rizzarelli

      Hi Karrie, I’m a follower of this blog and sometimes I photograph sunsets too. If I may add a suggestion for a next time, shoot in “live view” i.e. watching LCD, rather than in viewfinder. Your camera should have this function. This way you can check in real time what will be recorded by the CCD, while you experiment exposition settings, white balance etc. In addition, when shooting Sun through such long focals as 300mm it’s always a good idea to use live view, i.e. looking in LCD rather than in viewfinder, because watching Sun in viewfinder can damage eye. This is fore sure at daylight, wth high Sun. At sunsets the light from the Sun disc is usually much reduced by the atmosphere, but for safety I’d use liveview anyway.

      1. Karrie

        Thanks for your insight and point well taken about looking thru the viewfinder. It was very hazy and the light was well muted, but I did think about this very thing and I did use live view after the first night’s shots didn’t work out. The live view did indeed represent real life then when I clicked the shutter, orange sun. Beautiful, absolutely. The sun sets fast! And my photography thinking has been dulled by years of “phd” (push here, dummy) cameras.

        1. Giorgio Rizzarelli

          Oh great.. Best wishes.. By the way if you get the sunset these days you may catch the big sunspot too!

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