Professional astronomers with big telescopes have been capturing Comet ISON’s image since late 2012. Amateur astronomers with smaller telescopes joined the fun beginning in August 2013. Then, thanks to outbursts from the comet in November 2013, ISON became visible to the eye alone in dark skies, and many captured it against a background of visible stars. Now ISON cannot be seen from Earth, but it’s coming into the field of view of a whole fleet of ESA and NASA space-based observatories. We’ll continue adding to this gallery as the weeks pass.
ISON entered the field of view of a SOHO coronagraph on November 27. The blocked-out area in the center is the sun.
Comets ISON (brighter) and Encke from November 19-22, 2013 as seen encountering the solar wind. Image via Karl Battams/NRL/NASA-CIOC.
Comets Encke and ISON on November 25, 2013.
View larger. | It was exciting around the mornings of November 17 and 18, when Comet ISON was in the same binoculars field as the bright star Spica. Photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Jv Noriega. Thank you, Jv!
Click here a monthly Comet ISON viewing guide.
View larger. | The views of Comet ISON through a telescope can be misleading. In mid-November, the comet is barely visible to the eye in a dark location. EarthSky Facebook friend Ian Hennes captured this image on November 15, 2013. Thank you, Ian!
View larger. | Be sure to look at the larger size of this one. Rene Pi BSC caught this amazing image of Comet ISON (greenish streak at top) in the same frame as a Leonid meteor at the peak of this year’s Leonid meteor shower.
Of course, the telescopic view of Comet ISON remains glorious. This negative – from a photo taken November 15, 2013 by Damian Peach – shows a huge amount of detail, visible after Comet ISON underwent its outburst in mid-November. Photo used with permission. Thank you, Damian!
This beauty also came after Comet ISON’s mid-November outburst. It’s from our friend Scott MacNeill, from November 15, 2013. Notice the bright, round appearance of the comet’s coma – the fuzzy area surrounding its nucleus or core – in contrast to the photo below, which was taken some days earlier. Thank you, Scott!
Michael Jager of Jauerling, Austria captured this image of the comet on November 10, 2013. It clearly shows that the comet, as it has approached the sun, has two tails: an ion tail (composed of ionized gas molecules) and a dust tail (created by bits of dirt that have come off the comet’s nucleus). The ion tail points directly away from the sun, but the dust tail doesn’t. That is why you see the two tails as separate. Image via Michael Jager. Used with permission. Visit’s Michael Jaeger’s comet gallery.
View larger. | This inverted image of Comet ISON on November 4, 2013 is from Justin Ng in Singapore. It’s one of the images that showed, in early November, that Comet ISON’s two separate tails – an ion tail and a dust tail – had begun to emerge.
Composite image of Comet ISON on October 23, 2013 via Justin Ng in Singapore.
Another great shot of Comet ISON, this one from September 28, 2013. Note the greenish color. As it nears the sun, the comet is becoming more active. Jets beginning to spew more vigorously from the comet’s nucleus contain both cyanogen and diatomic carbon, which both glow green when illuminated by strong sunlight. Photo by Michael Jaeger. Used with permission. Visit’s Michael Jaeger’s comet gallery.
The first video in this line-up, above, is from NASA.
The second video, above, features Alan MacRobert, senior editor at skyandtelescope.com, with tips on viewing Comet ISON.
On September 17, Alfons Diepvens of Belgium captured one of the first images of ISON using a small telescope. He used an 8-inch telescope with a CCD camera for 55 minutes of exposures tracking the comet. Used with permission.
View larger. | Van Macatee captured this image of the comet on September 14, 2013. He wrote, “I set up to shoot about 4 a.m. and captured about 100 frames. Of those, 10 showed the comet reasonably well. Before those 10 frames it was too low in the horizon haze. After those 10, the sky was becoming too light. The 10 good frames were stacked, dark and bias frames removed and stretched in Nebulosity. The image was finished in Photoshop Elements 11.”
Comet ISON recovery photo August 2013. The comet was behind the sun as seen from Earth in June, July and part of August. Amateur astronomer Bruce Gary in Arizona became the first person to spot it again on August 12. The faintness of ISON when it emerged from the sun’s glare in August dampened the early enthusiasm for this comet. Image by Bruce Gary. Full story of recovery here.
Comet ISON as captured by the Hubble Space Telescope on April 30, 2013. Image via NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
View larger. | On April 10, 2013 the Hubble Space Telescope used its Wide Field Camera 3 to capture this photo, when the comet was 394 million miles from Earth. At that time, people still hoped for a spectacular display in late 2013. Image via NASA, ESA, J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute), and the Hubble Comet ISON Imaging Science Team
Comet C2012 S1 (ISON) discovery image December 2012. Used with permission.
Click here for a month-by-month viewing guide to Comet ISON.