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Comet ISON captured by Hubble

Washington, Apr 25 (): NASA released the photos of the Comet ISON taken on April 10 by the Hubble Space Telescope, when it was slightly closer to the Earth than Jupiter. Experts believe the comet could light up the sky in a breathtaking display later this year.

The comet ISON, also known as C/2012 S1, was discovered on September 21, 2012 by Vitali Nevski from Belarus and Artyom Novichonok from Russia.

The comet was spotted slightly closer than Jupiter’s orbit at a distance of 386 million miles from the Sun, and 394 million miles from Earth. Experts believe when the comet swings around the sun in late November, it will dramatically get brighter. Some say that the comet could shine brighter than Venus or even the full moon.

The comet has already become active at its current distance, as sunlight warms the surface and causes frozen substances to sublimate. When the comets come near the inner solar system, they become more active and the heat of the Sun evaporates their ices into jets of dust and gases.

Like all comets, comet ISON is also a ‘dirty snowball,’ a bundle of frozen gases mixed with dust, formed in a distant reach of the solar system, which is travelling in an orbit influenced by the gravitational pull of the Sun and its planets.

ISON is apparently making its first trip through the inner solar system from the distant, icy Oort cloud. The orbit of ISON will bring it closest to the Sun, of 700,000 miles on November 28.

The nucleus of the comet will continue to contract as it flies closer toward the sun and heats up. The rocky and icy object could break up entirely before it gets as close as 700,000 miles (1.1 million km) from the sun’s surface on Nov. 28.

The head of the comet is approximately 3,100 miles across, or 1.2 times the width of Australia. The tail of the comet is dusty and extends more than 57,000 miles, far beyond the view of the Hubble’s field.