In followup to my post on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, it now appears that “yes, Virginia” comet ISON did survive its perilous journey to within a million miles of the sun. It remains unclear how much of it survived and what kind of a display it will put on for the inhabitants of planets Earth.
Figure 1 is a still image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite showing the remnants of the comet as it comes around the sun. This is unbelievably shown in the time lapse video from the observatory, which shows first the comet’s approach, then its disappearance behind the sun, and finally its reappearance on the other side. Chalk this up to David’s fascination with “robotic eyes” giving us new ways to see and photograph. The way these images were taken is by using a circular shield that attenuates the light from the sun allowing the surrounding stars and solar atmosphere to be see. This only works well when you are above the Earth so that there is not a lot of light scattering by our own atmosphere.
So now we have to wait and see what happens next. Will ISON be a weak fizzle or will it put on a great show as originally hoped. December will tell.