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Comet ISON Sprouts “Coma Wings”

Comet ISON - Showing off new wings

Scientists are reporting that Comet ISON appears to have lost individual fragments in the past days. Images taken of the speedy object show two wing-shaped features in the comet’s atmosphere.

The researchers’ analyses show two striking features within the comet’s atmosphere that protrude from the nucleus in a wing-like fashion. While these so-called coma wings were still rather faint on November 14th, they dominate the images taken two days later.

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany and the Wendelstein Observatory of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich (Germany) discovered these new ISON features.

Light intensity increase

In the images taken of comet ISON, the coma wings cannot be seen with the naked eye. Instead, numerical methods were necessary to make them visible.

How the comet will develop in the next weeks is still unclear. “However, according to past experience, comets that have once lost a fragment tend to do this again,” said Hermann Böhnhardt from the MPS in a press statement.

On November 7th, ISON’s light intensity increased abruptly with several observers announcing a sudden rise in the comet’s activity.

Stay tuned: On November 28th, the comet will fly by the Sun in a distance of only 1.8 million kilometers!

Photo credit: Wendelstein Observatory of the LMU/MPS

By Leonard David

Live Sun Image
 
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