How Cool is This?! STEREO-A Spacecraft Spots Comet Ison Swimming Through the Solar Wind

By Tom Yulsman | November 22, 2013 1:57 pm
Comet Ison Comet Encke STEREO

An animation from NASA’s STEREO-A spacecraft shows Comet ISON entering its field of view on Nov. 21, 2013. (Source: Karl Battams/NASA/STEREO/CIOC)

Looking all the world like sperm cells whipping their tails to propel themselves toward an egg, comets Encke and Ison are seen in this animation of spacecraft images swimming through the solar wind toward the sun.

This is actually the first view of Comet Ison from one of NASA’s two STEREO spacecraft. The dark, cloud-like features coming in from the right are actually denser concentrations of the particles streaming outward from the sun that comprise the solar wind. This is what’s causing Encke’s tail to ripple and whip back and forth.

As you’ve probably heard, Ison will be rounding the sun on Nov. 28, 2013, passing within a mere 700,000 miles of it. Considering that the sun is about 870,000 miles across, this will be a very close encounter — and Ison may not survive it intact.

Encke orbits the sun every 3.3 years. But for Comet Ison, this is its first trip around the sun. And that’s really significant, according to NASA, because it means that:

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, select, Top Posts


ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

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