Comet ISON to light up on November 28
November 17, 2013 02:35:20 PM
A comet which could become the brightest for a century is racing into our solar system will pass just 621,000 miles from the sun's surface on November 28.
The comet ISON will pass exceptionally close to the sun in just under a fortnight, creating a cosmic spectacle as ice in its body vapourises and forms a distinct bright tail, reports the Daily Mail.
It will be more than 100 times closer to the sun than the Hale-Bopp comet, one of the brightest of the last century which was visible with the naked eye for a record 18 months in 1997.
As it blasts towards the sun, the intense gravitational pull will make it speed up to 234 miles per second.
The sun's rays will also heat the ball of ice, metal and rock to 2,760 degrees Celsius, making it much brighter than most comets - with some scientists claiming it could outshine the moon.
Comets are believed to be frozen remains left over from the formation of the solar system four and a half billion years ago.
ISON, which has never visited our solar system before, has emerged from the Oort Cloud, a reservoir of icy bodies beyond Neptune's orbit.
These balls of ice are occasionally 'bumped' by the sun's gravity out of the cloud and into a flight path that brings them into the inner solar system.
The vast majority of comets are invisible to the naked eye, but the most famous is Halley's Comet.
That is because it is the only comet which visits often enough and shines brightly enough to be seen by most people in their lifetime.
The ISON comet was discovered in September last year by two amateur astronomers using Russia's International Scientific Optical Network, ISON, who marvelled at how bright it was even beyond Jupiter's orbit.
It comes to our solar system between every 75 and 76 years and last visited in 1986. Among other things, it inspired the name of 1950s rock and roll outfit Bill Haley and His Comets.