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Scientists: Sun-grazing comet likely broke up

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Space Thanksgiving

STOCKHOLM (AP) - Once billed as the comet of the century, Comet ISON apparently was no match for the sun.

Scientists said images from NASA spacecraft showed the comet approaching for a slingshot around the sun on Thursday, but just a trail of dust coming out on the other end.

"It does seem like Comet ISON probably hasn't survived this journey," U.S. Navy solar researcher Karl Battams said in a Google+ hangout.

Phil Plait, an astronomer who runs the "Bad Astronomy" blog, agreed, saying "I don't think the comet made it."

Still, he said, it wouldn't be all bad news if the 4.5-billion-year-old space rock broke up into pieces, because astronomers might be able to study them and learn more about comets.

"This is a time capsule looking back at the birth of the solar system," he said.

The comet was two-thirds of a mile wide as it got within 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) of the sun, which in space terms basically means grazing it.

NASA solar physicist Alex Young said it would take a few hours to confirm ISON's demise, but admitted things were not looking good.

He said the comet had been expected to show up in images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft at around noon eastern time (1700 GMT), but almost four hours later there was "no sign of it whatsoever."

"Maybe over the last couple of days it's been breaking up," Young told The Associated Press. "The nucleus could have been gone a day or so ago."

Images from other spacecraft showed a light streak continuing past the sun, but Young said that was most likely a trail of dust continuing in the comet's trajectory.

"The comet itself is definitely gone, but it looks like there is a trail of debris," he said.

Comet ISON was first spotted by a Russian telescope in September last year.

Some sky gazers speculated early on that it might become the comet of the century because of its brightness, although expectations dimmed as it got closer to the sun.

Made up of loosely packed ice and dirt, it was essentially a dirty snowball from the Oort cloud, an area of comets and debris on the fringes of the solar system.

Two years ago, a smaller comet, Lovejoy, grazed the sun and survived, but fell apart a couple of days later.

"That's why we expected that maybe this one would make it because it was 10 times the size," Young said.

It may be a while before there's a sun-grazer of the same size, he said.

"They are pretty rare," Young said. "So we might not see one maybe even in our lifetime."

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anglundy5 December 08 2013 at 5:39 PM

....Its was one the most beautiful two "rainbows" from the glare comet Ison-However, the Nasa 2006 Comet Wild-2 and exciting too! "Areogel."

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leighfoulkes314 November 29 2013 at 12:37 PM

NASA should have CGI the whole thing. Have an inmense explosion of colors and sparks with made the whole nine yards and put an gas explosion type of effect.

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winesandgardens November 29 2013 at 12:26 PM

the antisipation was here but now i will have to study why and how thank you

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klee1701 November 29 2013 at 12:21 PM

Sad that aol has degenerated into nothing more than a gossip rag where the antics of the kadashians and kanye are more important than real news.

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starthrower50 November 29 2013 at 12:42 PM

AOL hasn't degenerated. It's never been anything worth paying for, although many did. It started out as an overpriced hangout for horny teenage boys and never evolved into anything significan't. They did have some nice benefits a few years ago, like a free homepage and free file storage, but the nice ones have been systematically replaced with benefits nobody wants. Nowdays, AOL's only real benefit is that it's free, but you have to bring your own connection even to get that. I still like their e-mail client and I use it for that alone, but this new front end is nothing but a nuisance. If I could go back to 9.5 without having to redo so much, I would. AOL has been taking Windows lessons in releasing software too early, allowing its user base to do the beta testing to fix the bugs.

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wlh1923 November 29 2013 at 11:54 AM

Apparently it melted

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almasearch November 29 2013 at 10:45 AM

Yelled as in "Young Frankenstein" : "It's alive!" LOL

From SpaceWeather.com: "COMET ISON LIVES! Cancel the funeral. Comet ISON is back from the dead. Yesterday, Nov. 28th, Comet ISON flew through the sun's atmosphere and appeared to disintegrate before the cameras of several NASA and ESA spacecraft. This prompted reports of the comet's disintegration. Today, the comet has revived and is rapidly brightening. Click to view of a SOHO coronagraph movie of the astounding flyby:"

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llamammama2 November 29 2013 at 12:23 PM

as inspector clouseau said '' nyot anymeur!''

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Old Curmudgeon November 29 2013 at 10:45 AM

It's the star followed by the Magi!!!!!!! You know those guys don't you? They were not "kings" but actually they were ancient firemen. It's TRUE. The Bible says "They came from a FAR" and in True Texas Bible thumper-world was created 6,000 years ago, that says it all.

P.S. If you don't speak "Texas", it translates: "They came from a fire".

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mauiflygirl1 November 29 2013 at 10:40 AM

pretty neat to watch

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fred November 29 2013 at 10:32 AM

Either global warming or Bush's fault.

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Old Curmudgeon November 29 2013 at 10:45 AM

Can't believe someone didn't blame this on Obama

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mcptginc November 29 2013 at 11:00 AM

No but I heard he took credit for it's demise. Once again the King has saved us from sure annihilation! And the oceans rise began to recede.

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jwalk2235 November 29 2013 at 10:28 AM

The comet should have gone around the sun at night. It is a lot cooler then.

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6 replies to jwalk2235's comment
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