ISON appears to have shattered as it reached its closest point to the Sun today, torn apart by the Sun's intense gravitational field.
Three solar observatories were monitoring the comet as it approached the Sun. ISON grew faint in the view of the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory and Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. The comet was not visible at all via the Solar Dynamic Observatory, indicating that it may very well have evaporated by that point.
ISON's orbit brought it extremely close to the Sun, but its mass was right at the limit at which it could survive such a trip, making the Thanksgiving observations a nail-biter. Viewers on Earth were hoping for ISON to survive, putting on a show in the night sky as it reemerged from behind the Sun. But it looks now like the comet will have been totally destroyed, leaving nothing left to light up the night.
NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory and the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory show Comet ISON dimming as it journeyed toward the Sun.
Few sungrazing comets survive their trip to our solar system's home star. Not only must these small, loosely bound collections of ice and ...