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Comet Ison Images Captured by Hubble Give Deep-Space Perspective

Image: Comet Ison Images Captured by Hubble Give Deep-Space Perspective

Monday, 29 Jul 2013 01:33 PM

By Michael Mullins

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The Comet Ison, which is scheduled to pass through our inner solar system in late November, was captured by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope earlier this year in a series of photos that when combined, represent what the celestial body would look like to the human eye in deep-space.

The image, which is comprised of five separate photos taken by NASA's Hubble on April 30, shows the Comet Ison against a starry night backdrop with multiple galaxies sparkling in the blackness of deep space behind it.

"The result is part science, part art," Josh Sokol, of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., which operates Hubble, wrote in a blog post last week, Space.com reported. "It's a simulation of what our eyes, with their ability to dynamically adjust to brighter and fainter objects, would see if we could look up at the heavens with the resolution of Hubble."

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Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 UVIS instrument captured all five images.

According to Hubble operators, two exposures used filters that let in red and some near-infrared light, while the other three photos were created using a filter that transmits yellow and green light, which in the image is represented in blue light, Space.com noted.

"In general, redder things are older, more evolved, than blue things — this is true both for the crosshair-spiked stars and the smudges of distant galaxies," Sokol wrote in his blog.

Sky watchers should be able to see the Comet Ison on Nov. 28 as it passes by us approximately 724,000 miles above the solar surface, with a comet head of approximately 3,100 miles and a dusty tail extends more than 57,000 miles, according to NASA.

As it passes the solar surface, the "cosmic snowballs of frozen gases, rock and dust," as described by NASA, could appear as bright as a full moon, researchers say.

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Distinguishable from asteroids by their tail, comets, which are roughly the size of a small town, are primordial bodies comprised of the same fundamental building blocks that was responsible for the formation of planets billions of years ago.

Related stories:

Earthlings May See Comet Brighter Than Moon

NASA Spacecraft Set to Rendezvous with Comet

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