Just a week ago, ISON was being touted as the 'Comet of the Century' - one that would provide a celestial show like none other. Alas, such was not the case. It appears as though the mighty comet's close meeting with the sun did not go so well, causing it to . . . just fizzle away.
The much anticipated encounter occurred on Thursday, November 28th, when ISON neared perihelion or its closest approach to the sun. With the icy comet already sporting an impressive tail that measured 20 times wider than our fullest Moon and a head that was bright enough to be spotted at predawn with just the naked eye, expectations were high! After all, a dose of intense heat from the sun could only enhance it, right?
As Karl Battams and Mathew Knight from NASA's Comet ISON Observing Campaign, along with 32,000 people on Google+ Hangout watched in anticipation, Comet ISON brightened as it approached the sun and then . . . simply disappeared!
All they were able to observe was a mysterious fan-shaped cloud that emerged from the sun's atmosphere, a few minutes later. Even the Solar Dynamics Observatory that had been keeping close track of the comet was not powerful enough to see what was inside. NASA scientists speculate that it could be the remnant nucleus of the once mighty comet, but nobody will ever know for sure!
RIP, comet ISON!