Comet Ison: Blow for stargazers as 'comet of the century' destroyed by the Sun

It was hoped that the comet would provide a spectacular sight in the sky next month - but the signs indicate that it had been burned up on its journey

Astronomers tracking the “comet of the century” tonight believed it had flown too close to the Sun and had broken up. Comet Ison was due to pass within 730,000 miles of the sun’s surface shortly after 6.30pm.

“We don’t think it survived because we don’t see any new dust,” Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Laboratory said.

It was hoped that Comet Ison would provide a spectacular sight in the sky next month - but the signs were that it had been burned up on its journey.

The comet was due to graze the outer layers of the sun at 6.37pm UK time tonight, approaching as close as 730,000 miles (1,174, 821km) from the star's surface.

As it brushed past the Sun, the comet would encounter temperatures of more than 2,700C (4,892F), enough to vaporise rock.

If enough of it survived, it promised to be one of the brightest seen this century, but its fate would be decided by its size. At around 1.2 miles (2km) across, it was thought it could be just big enough to avoid being melted away or turned to dust.

Even at a greatly reduced size it was hoped it could produce a glorious long tail, visible to the naked eye from the UK from December 1 onwards.

Images from Nasa spacecraft showed the comet approaching for its slingshot around the Sun today - but nothing coming out on the other side.

US Navy solar researcher Karl Battams said: "Ison probably hasn't survived this journey."

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

However he said it would not be all bad news if the rock broke into pieces, because astronomers might be able to study them and learn more about comets.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy