When Comet ISON's trajectory brings it scorchingly close to the Sun later this year, astronomers believe it could emerge from its close encounter as one of the brightest comets ever seen from Earth. Now, Hubble has captured a stunning image of the approaching ice-ball in flight, against a backdrop bursting with nearby stars and distant galaxies.
On April 30, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope observed Comet ISON. Compared to the stars and galaxies twinkling behind it, ISON is just a stone’s throw from Earth. Here, though, we see the comet splashed out over deep space, in a collage with colorful, distant neighbors.
The image combines two Hubble filters. One filter lets in red light, which is represented here as red, and the other a greenish-yellow color, which is represented as blue. 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. If you’re wondering what color the Sun would appear in this image, look no further than ISON itself. Unlike the objects in the frame, ISON isn’t bright on its own – it just reflects sunlight back to Earth.
For more info, visit HUBBLESITE. Those interested in learning more about ISON would be advised to tune in for a Google Hangout discussion on the comet this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. EST, where you'll have an opportunity to ask your own questions.