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Comet ISON, Sidewinder

22 Jul 2013, 15:28 UTC
Comet ISON, Sidewinder
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Comet ISON viewed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble made eight exposures over a span
of about 43 minutes on May 8, 2013 showing the comet's movement against the field of fixed stars.
Photo credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

On May 8, the Hubble Space Telescope snapped a series of short exposures of Comet ISON. Cut together, these frames capture ISON as it hurtles into the inner solar system. But when we released this video, our astute friends on Facebook noticed something important: the comet appears to be moving in the wrong direction.

So why isn’t ISON streaking across the stars into the lower-left, in the direction we all intuitively assume it’s supposed to? To answer, let’s go behind the scenes to understand how the Hubble Heritage Team made this GIF in the first place. There’s a whole system of moving parts to consider – only one of which is ISON itself.

ISON is moving in the direction you think it is...

For a comet, traveling through the solar system isn’t always smooth sailing. Radiation from the Sun and the charged particles that make up the solar wind tear away at a comet’s ...

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