Feeds

Basically RUBBISH 'COMET of the Century' ISON snapped by HiRISE in Mars orbit

'Not visually pleasing', admit NASA boffins

High performance access to file storage

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter circling high above the red planet has taken a break from its normal assignment of staring down at the ochre world beneath to get some snaps of Comet ISON as it passes by en route to the inner solar system.

Not going to set the world on fire. Or even the sky

Despite the fact that the orbiter used an instrument dubbed HiRISE - for High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment - the actual comet itself failed to fill more than a measly pixel. Disappointed NASA boffins wrote:

HiRISE saw a small spot at the position of ISON that is relatively bright, like a star, but moving relative to actual stars. The comet's coma is apparently very faint ...

... the image isn't visually pleasing ...

ISON was discovered by Russian astronomers last year, while it was still out beyond the orbit of Jupiter. It's thought to be a new comet, on its first plunge into the solar system from the Oort Cloud. Its path will take it within three-quarters of a million miles of the Sun at the end of November, so that if it was a big 'un it would perhaps have developed a spectacular sky-dominating tail. However this now doesn't seem at all likely.

Even so the NASA scientists offer some hope.

"As the comet gets closer to the sun, its brightness will increase to Earth-based observers," they write. "The comet may also become intrinsically brighter as the stronger sunlight volatilizes the comet's ices."

There's still hope of naked-eye visibility for ISON, even if not really any that it will be the comet of the century.

Keep watching the skies. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.