Comet ISON battered by the Sun
Credit: SOHO (ESA/NASA)
It appears that Comet ISON, which was once hailed as a potential Comet of the Century, has taken a battering during a close fly-by of the Sun. Had it survived today's (28th November) slingshot manoeuvre in one piece, it might have become one of the brightest comets for many years. However, its failure to reappear intact from behind the Sun means that this will not be the case. It is believed that the extreme temperatures (at around 2700 °C) and strong gravitational pull of the Sun caused it to disintegrate into a dense trail of particles - as seen in the animated movie of recent SOHO images (see right).
During its final approach, Comet ISON reached speeds of around 845,000 mph (378 km/s) as it came within 730,000 miles (1.17 million km) of the Sun's surface at around 6.37 pm UK time. ISON has offered a wonderful spectacle to many thousands of stargazers around the world, and may yet reveal secrets to astronomers, who are still hoping to study the material that has survived.