Comet ISON, dubbed the “Comet of the Century” by some hopeful astronomers, is continuing its journey ever closer to the sun – and a possible one-in-a-lifetime celestial event for Earth.
NASA recently released video of the comet captured at a staggering 493 million miles away with its Medium-Resolution Imager over a 36-hour period on 17 and 18 January.
According to latest observations, excitement over ISON is still warranted – with preliminary results indicating that although the comet is still in the outer solar system, it is already active. As of Jan. 18, the tail extending from ISON’s nucleus was already more than 40,000 miles (64,400 kilometers) long.
If the comet survies its brush with the sun, NASA expects ISON to be at its brightest in our sky on December 26, 2013. As it will still be more than 40 million miles away, it will not pose a threat.
“Around that time, if the more optimistic predictions are accurate, it could become a very brilliant object, perhaps even visible in daylight,” writes PC Mag. “After making a hairpin turn around the Sun, the comet will head north, becoming visible in the morning and evening sky and likely growing a long tail. It will pass within about 40 million miles of Earth, and could remain visible to the unaided eye through January.”
The last time astronomers say the world was treated to a comet that was glimpsed during the daylight hours and dazzled clear across the sky at sunset was in 1680.
Check out time-lapse video of ISON below.