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Comet ISON : NASA, ESA begin search for remains of ‘Comet of the century’

Washington, Dec 7 (): NASA and the European Space Agency ESA have begun their search for the leftovers of Comet ISON, the so-called ‘Comet of the Century’ which passed just 750,000 miles above the surface of the Sun last week.

When the ‘Comet of the Century’ ISON swayed extremely close to the sun on November 28, scientists were left confused as to whether it had survived or not.

Earlier, it was hoped that ISON might survive its close encounter to sun, and shine brightly in the night skies in the month of December. On Thursday, it had become clear that the icy ball of dust and rock had not been able to withstand the intense heat and radiation, and had mostly broken up by Monday morning.

Huge amounts of data were gathered by the scientists before its destruction, and such data could be used to provide visions into everything from the origins of the Solar System to the nature of comets themselves.

Most astronomers now believe that the comet was devastated by solar heat with the scientists at the European Space Agency stating there is a 10% chance that pieces of the comet larger than 100m have survived and may be large enough to continue to study, even as they fly at 828,000 mph away from the Sun.

Scientists at NASA say a 90 per cent chance of this has happened. Now, they believe remains from its original 0.62 mile (1km) nucleus are only 10 metre pieces of rubble. However, there is a 10 per cent chance of it having left behind some important remains 100 metres in radius or larger which will be big enough to study the comet.

NASA said that it will monitor the comet for the next few weeks. Recently launched NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft may try to observe ISON next week. NASA’s STEREO spacecraft will use its cameras to search for bright fragments throughout the week, along with the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) in Honolulu.

Further, by mid-to-late December NASA Hubble and Chandra observatories will be performing deep outer space searches for any remnants of the comet. Spitzer will also look for ISON in early 2014.