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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: Comet ISON Survives Its Solar Gantlet
29 November 2013 8:45 pm
It was one heck of a roller coaster ride for astronomers tracking comet ISON as it swung in for its close passage by the sun. A week out, it brightened in an outburst that some took to be its death throes as the blistering heat of the sun ate into the ice and dust of its kilometer-wide nucleus, which appears to be more of a loose, dirty snowdrift than a firmly packed iceball. But it steadied, continued to brighten, only to start fading. The end? No, it recovered, resumed brightening only to be lost from view by the orbiting solar telescopes. They were able to gaze directly at the sun (here seen in time-lapse images, the center white circle representing the sun) just as the comet drew near its closest approach to the sun on 28 November. Most astronomers thought ISON was a goner, the victim of the searing heat and the sun’s wrenching gravitational tides. But then, out the other side, came ISON, or something that had been ISON. There might be a much-diminished nucleus or just a swarm of icy debris. Whatever it is, however, it is spewing the gas and dust that, if ISON can keep it up, could make for a pretty sight in the predawn of the early days of December. Knowing ISON as they do, astronomers are calling that a huge if.