Comet ISON: The Timelapse Hubble Movie

by Nancy Atkinson on July 2, 2013

A false-color, visible-light image of Comet ISON taken with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

A false-color, visible-light image of Comet ISON taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

The Hubble Space Telescope team has released a video of Comet ISON as it is tearing toward its encounter with the Sun, zooming at 77,250 km/h (48,000 miles per hour). The comet’s motion is captured in a timelapse movie, below, made from a sequence of pictures taken May 8, 2013. On that date, the comet was 650 million km (403 million miles) from Earth, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

This sungrazing comet will come closest to the Sun in November 2013, and the debate is on whether it will dazzle the skies and be visible in the daytime or fizzle out due to its close proximity to the Sun.

The movie shows a sequence of Hubble observations taken over a 43-minute span, compressed into five seconds. In that 43 minutes, the comet traveled about 55,000 km (34,000 miles). ISON streaks silently against the background stars.

Source: HubbleSite

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Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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