Adrian Jannetta writes...
Dramatic images from NASA's SOHO mission show the fate of much heralded Comet 2012S1 ISON. Basically, it's all but gone.
For many months ISON didn't brighten as much as astronomers had hoped. The images show that ISON brightened abruptly and then faded a few hours before reaching perihelion (closest point to the Sun). What emerged on the other side may have fragments of the original nucleus, sublimating and crumbling into a cloud expanding particles. The rapidly changing perspective of the moving cloud created a brightening event which some hoped was a sign that part of the original comet nucleus had survived, and might yet put on a show in the morning sky this week. But it's unlikely there will be anything to see by the time that cloud of material moves away from the Sun.
It's disappointing that we won't see a dramatic comet any time soon. On the plus side, astronomers have studied a comet from Oort Cloud - a pristine sample of the early solar system - and have been able to study it with observatories on Earth and orbiting other planets. It just might be that ISON's legacy as one of the most observed comets in history will contribute much more to our understanding of comets than many other "great" comets have in the past.
Dr Adrian Jannetta FRAS
Amateur astronomer and mathematics teacher. Guitar strumming explorer of the universe!
Proud nerd and founder of the school space club. A young whippersnapper with a bucket-load of passion.