Comet ISON battered but staggers on

Not dead yet! A line from one of my favorite Monty Python tunes. And it might be aptly applied to Comet ISON this evening. Its curved tail is quite beautiful to see in this SOHO image and a small, relatively bright head persists. Credit: NASA/ESA

Had ISON truly bitten the dust? While  the comet may have taken a quite a beating at perihelion today, a remnant survives yet this evening. It looks dimmer than Antares at lower left – certainly not brighter than 2nd magnitude.The question is whether there’s enough material there to hold together long enough to show up in the dawn sky in a couple days. Just in case, I’ll prepare an observing chart tomorrow to help you anticipate the arrival of the ISON’s ghost.

A word of caution – don’t get your hopes too high just yet. We’ll have to see how much material remains and holds together in the coming hours to better gauge what to expect in a few days.

Comet ISON at 5:24 p.m. in the closer-in C2 coronagraph on SOHO. The white circle represents the sun. The comet’s faint tail wraps around the sun at lower right. Credit: NASA/ESA

Animation of 30 SOHO C2 images around the time of perihelion. The old tail at bottom disconnects and fades. Credit: NASA/ESA

Also, take a look at this 30-image animation put together by Ian Musgrave of ISON rounding this sun this afternoon using pictures from SOHO’s C2 coronagraph. If you look closely at the bottom of the frame, you see the comet’s long tail disconnect just about the time the comet’s head disappears behind the occulting disk.

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About astrobob

My name is Bob King and I work at the Duluth News Tribune in Duluth, Minn. as a photographer and photo editor. I'm also an amateur astronomer and have been keen on the sky since age 11. My modest credentials include membership in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) where I'm a regular contributor, International Meteorite Collectors Assn. and Arrowhead Astronomical Society. I also teach community education astronomy classes at our local planetarium.

28 thoughts on “Comet ISON battered but staggers on

  1. I’m beginning to think that this comet’s ultimate goal is to drive us all nuts! lol ;It was dying on Nov25,came back to life on the 26th;had last rites read over it a scant few hours ago and now seems to have,at least partially,survived perehelion! Seriously,isn’t a partial survival exactly what happened to Lovejoy 2011? And that still produced a fine spectacle.Maybe Ison hasn’t finished surprising us?

  2. I will take second magnitude, or hopefully something visible. Maybe Sky and Telescope was premature in saying, ISON is no more.

        • Edward,
          Yes, Lovejoy broke up probably during perihelion but the effects of the breakup were not seen until a few days later (Dec. 20) when the bright head was suddenly observed to become a long streak and then fade. Lovejoy came out of perihelion bright and apparently intact.

  3. Summing up, in last hours ISON seemed to pass from headless to showing a remnant head. Unless the effect depends on instruments or sun glare, I’d consider (just a personal idea) the possibility of a dust shield which, in last hours, would have opened to reveal the remnant head (a bit like days 21-25 when the comet had that fading in spectral lines, which could be due to a dust shield, then opened up). If it’s so, then the ghost may still brighten up. What do you think?

  4. I like what Bruce Betts said, It is now clear that the comet survived or didn’t survive, I hope that that clarifies things..

  5. Over at CIOC,they’re almost literally pulling their hair! They describe Ison’s behaviour as unprecedented among the over 2000 comets that they’ve so far studied.

  6. I guess the anonymous astronomer that coined the phrase “a comet is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get” was right once again. I love ISON’s new look with that rebel curve. now the race is on for the first telescopic observations :)
    latest (and final ?) update on tuesday night meteor over south-western Québec and northern New York state: shockwave recordings analysis confirmed as meteor by researchers at the University of Western Ontario. more info here:

  7. Using Ison’s coordinates, I do not think that the comet will rise much more than about 10 minutes before the Sun tomorrow, I suppose that the comet would have to be at least -3 magnitude to be seen in the best of conditions.

    • Tim,
      All I can think of is the obvious – it was too faint at the time. I’ve also heard that the comet’s orbit changed slightly near the sun, so maybe it wasn’t in exactly the position expected either.

  8. Looking at some of the latest SOHO at 0530, ISON appears brighter than Antares again! Or at least to my old eyes. The previous 3 pics were dimmer……very odd! I watched the show with Bartams this am/pm and they all pretty much wrote it off as DOA. I wonder what it will look like come next week. Watch ISON do the opposite and brighten the next few days. Fun to watch for sure.

  9. As to whether Ison has truly bitten the dust: can something largely comprised of dust actually bite itself? Yes,it’s been a long day…..

  10. Getting a round nucleus/coma on ISON again in the 0618 LASCO C3 image. Go ISON go! Even with no spoke like the single on on Antares, ISON still looks brighter to me.

  11. Hey Bob,

    I think we should dub ISON the “Zombie Comet,” back from the dead and still causing trouble. I’ll look for it around noon today (Friday) from the shade of my swamp cooler–weather permitting. I caught the tail end of that live, on-line event yesterday and it was like a wake. Only one scientist remained to perform the last rites. Reports of ISON’s death have been greatly (we hope) exaggerated. Later.

    Norman Sanker

    • Norman, Yup death certificate was signed..Hey I tried getting them (the scientists) to listen and to goto my links to see the truth but pure overconfidence in their SDO must of kept them from looking in on the youtube audience. The time line in there says it all, they got scooped by the audience with their own data… what happened to NASA and the teams involved is sad. The presentation some might call appalling. To be clear, if they were also trying to keep tabs on the situation with the SOHO (while mainly focused on SDO) they were only looking at processed data while I was pulling the not so processed off military workstation. They had not their ducks in a row. Heads should roll ;)

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