Comet ISON will approach Mars this week before heading toward Earth. The comet will be visible to the naked eye beginning the first week of November. It should remain visible for around two months.
In an attempt to photograph the comet, researchers with NASA developed a special balloon. The Balloon Rapid Response for ISON is equipped with a telescope. The balloon and telescope were designed to capture images using infrared and ultraviolet light.
As reported by NBC News, the balloon was launched on Saturday. Two hours into the mission, the balloon’s mechanics experienced a glitch. The telescope became jammed behind a latch. Researchers were unable to move it out of its stowed position.
The $11 million project failed. However, NASA officials say the equipment can be spared and reused.
Comet ISON is expected to be as bright as the planet Venus — as viewed with the naked eye. Dust particles around the comet will reflect sunlight, giving the comet a bright green glow.
The comet should be the brightest on November 28. However, its close proximity to the sun could make it difficult to see. On December 26, the comet will make its closest pass to Earth at “40 million miles above the North Pole.”
As reported by Catholic Online, there is a possibility that the comet will break apart before the end of December. As the comet approaches the sun, it will be subjected to strong tidal forces.
The forces could cause the comet to break into pieces. The initial explosion would cause a temporary brightening. However, the light would quickly fade. If the comet survives passing the sun, it will be bright and visible into the month of January.
Viewers with telescopes may observe the comet through the month of March.
The Comet ISON’s brilliant light, color, and length of visibility, are incredibly rare. Once the comet returns to deep space, it is not expected to return.
[Image via Salzgeber.com]