Comet ISON celebrates the 4th of July with its own lightshow
Forget looking to the skies this Independence Day for the usual fireworks display: A special deep space object will treat you to its own lightshow.
Comet ISON, named after the Russian group that found it last year, is really starting to light up as it hurtles towards the Sun at around 48,000mph. It looks a bit like a bright rocket from here on Earth, and as you can imagine, you’d have to be quick to spot it!
The speedy comet has actually been within NASA’s sights for a few months, with the above photo being recorded on May 8, as it passed between Mars and Jupiter’s orbits, 403 million miles away from us. The Hubble Telescope also took a number of photos over a 43-minute time span, which condenses into a seven-second time-lapse video. At this point, it was travelling at an, erm, “steadier” 34,000mph.
In addition to its great speed, Comet ISON’s also pretty striking, with its bright light and streaking tail. The light is due to the comet shooting closer to the Sun, which will also make its tail appear longer. Its tail is made up of gas and dust, flying of the icy centre.
The downside? While you might be able to see it on July 4, you’ll need a quality telescope to spot it. Don’t worry, though: By September, it will be bright enough for you to see it with binoculars then the naked eye, so mark it on your calendar!