NASA Captures New Photo of Potential "Comet of the Century"

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In November of this year, a comet by the name of ISON will graze past the Sun. Its close encounter has the potential to ignite the comet in such a way that it could be visible from Earth in the middle of the day, and even outshine the Moon at night. Astronomers say it is a potential "comet of the century." And this, dear reader, is what it looks like.

The image was captured at the end of January by the Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope aboard NASA's Swift satellite, and released two days ago by the Agency. According to, the satellite is typically used to track intense gamma-ray bursts from far-flung stars, but has been used for the last few months to track ISON's movement and study its composition.

"Comet ISON has the potential to be among the brightest comets of the last 50 years, which gives us a rare opportunity to observe its changes in great detail and over an extended period," said Lead Investigator Dennis Bodewits, an astronomer with University of Maryland at College Park (UMCP) who helped obtain the new image.

Some astronomers have predicted that ISON could be the "Comet of the Century" when it makes its closest approach to the sun in late November. But a recent analysis found that the comet is not brightening as expected, and may have a ways to go to meet such expectations.


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Image courtesy NASA/Swift/D. Bodewits, UMCP