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ISON: One Last Look?

4 Dec 2013, 14:40 UTC
ISON: One Last Look?
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People are writing loving obituaries for Comet ISON, the sungrazer who lived life a little too close to the edge. Is that it? Are we ISON'ed out? In a post-ISON era? Adrift and alone in a universe bereft of ISONs?
Probably, but Hubble is planning to do one more observation in late December, to try to get a glimpse of the remains.
So what will it see? Well, possibly nothing. The pieces could be so small that they don't reflect light, or they could be slightly off the expected trajectory after breaking apart. (Hubble will have to follow the expected path unless Earth-bound observatories can help pinpoint the comet bits -- otherwise the telescope would just be guessing at a location.) Some people have wondered whether there's a danger from the fragments. The answer is no -- they still follow the general trajectory, and they're still extremely far away from Earth.

Best case scenario, Hubble sees something like a coma, an expanding cloud of diffuse particles, or some bits of rubble that were once a nucleus.

So there may be a little – very little – more ISON in your life sometime in the next several weeks. Hubble can't look ...

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