(Be sure to scroll to bottom for the latest update)
Sure, Comet ISON may be busting apart as you read this, but it’s still keeping up appearances as it swiftly approaches the sun today. The latest photo taken by SOHO at 6:42 a.m. CST today Nov. 27 shows the comet at about 1st magnitude, roughly the same brightness as Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius. A very thin additional streak of a tail shows alongside the main dust tail. It’s surmised that this new feature formed from various sized dust particles released during the recent break-up of the nucleus. It’s still possible the entire core didn’t entirely bust to bits – maybe it was only a large chunk.
Either way, the comet’s remains fairly intact only a day before perihelion, almost guaranteeing we’ll at least get to see a very nice tail in the days following.
Check back often. I’ll update with the latest news on ISON. And for those that care little for comets, I appreciate you hanging in there. Our regularly scheduled programming will soon return!
UPDATE 10 a.m. CST: This just in from astronomer Matthew Knight at Kitt Peak observatories near Tuscon, Arizona – the comet has increased in brightness by a factor of at least 4 since entering the SOHO pictures yesterday evening. Wahoo!
UPDATE 1 p.m. CST: A newer photo (above) shows that ISON continues to blossom. The spike is an electronic artifact called ‘blooming’. It happens when a celestial object is bright enough to saturate the camera’s CCD chip. Extra electrons released when light strikes the chip spill over into adjacent rows to create spikes and lines around the object. Blooming is a good sign that the comet is rapidly getting brighter. Stay tuned.
UPDATE 4:30 p.m. CST: Space scientist and amateur astronomer Rob Matson reports that the comet has brightened into the negative magnitudes. In astronomy, the larger the negative number assigned to a celestial object, the brighter. There are only four stars – Sirius, Canopus, Arcturus and Alpha Centauri – and the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, along with the sun and moon that are rated as “negative”.
UPDATE midnight Nov. 27-28: ISON estimated at -2 magnitude, but despite several amateur astronomers’ attempts to see and photograph the comet using telescope, binoculars and camera, nothing has been seen. There’s a photo circulating online by a Czech observer today that might show the comet but it’s still unclear if it’s the real item.