Comet ISON Image of the Week

Eyes in the Sky (July 8, 2013)



C/2012 S1 (ISON) images recorded by the NASA EPOXI satellite in January 2013. EPOXI will have more opportunities to observe the comet throughout this year.
One of the strengths of our Comet ISON Observing Campaign is that we're not only global -- we're also celestial! For centuries, astronomy has relied solely on ground-based observations, and this has worked out pretty well so far. Modern optics in particular now enable tremendous deep sky imaging, and even the faintest of comets and asteroids are within the reach of most. But when we zoom out and consider our solar system in its entirety, we are still just a single pale blue dot in space, and a single observing platform that we all have to share. This means that while some may take deeper and clearer images of comets, for example, we all basically seeing it from exactly the same location, and through the same atmosphere that blocks certain types of light from reaching us. However, with the advent of Space Science, astronomy is no longer limited to a single location in space, and there is no wavelength of light that cannot reach our cameras. This is something the CIOC is taking advantage of with a fleet of spacecraft planning on making observations of Comet ISON throughout the year!

Opposite is one of the very earliest space-based images recorded of Comet ISON, taken by NASA's EPOXI mission on January 17th, 2013. The EPOXI mission is what's left of the rather awesome Deep Impact mission which intentionally crashed an impactor into comet Tempel-1 almost exactly 8-years ago, on July 4th 2005. Since then, EPOXI has gone on to study comet Hartley 2, performing a close fly-by in 2010, and now continues to cruise through space looking for attractive targets to image.

Indeed, by design EPOXI is well-equipped to image comets, and with its current location in space, far from Earth, it was an easy decision for the mission team to take these images of Comet ISON in January! While not nearly as spectacular as EPOXI's images of Comet Hartley 2, these very early Comet ISON observations gave us important information about the activity level of Comet ISON, which is very active for a comet at such a great distance from Sun (one of the reasons we're so excited about it!). Throughout the year, as Comet ISON gets closer to us, there are plans to make more observations with EPOXI and take advantage of its unique location in space. We will certainly keep you up to date on those observations as and when they happen.

Every week this year we will put up a new image related to Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON). If you have a cool image you'd like us to consider, please send it to sungrazer@nrl.navy.mil, along with a description and any credits you would want applied. We'll contact you if we choose to use your image on the CIOC Website.

See our ISON Image of the Week Archives for earlier picks!