Comet ISON appears to be toast – goes "poof" in video, then comes back to life

McCoy_ISON_Its_undead_JimNote: See updates below for the ISON ISOFF ISON nature of this comet that has everybody guessing. Picture at right also updated to reflect the new “zombie” status of this comet.

Looks like ISON has disintegrated during its turn around the sun. Given the radiation (estimated temperature 5,000F/2,760C – hot enough to vaporize rock), solar wind, and the tidal-forces (even though smallish, thanks Gavin) associated with its proximity and nearly 800,000 mph speed around the turn about that time, I’m not surprised. Watch the second video below where it goes “poof” (h/t to reader “David”)

NASA’s reports:

Comet ISON is making its closest approach to the sun, and evidence is mounting that the nucleus of the comet has disintegrated. Watch the head of the comet fade dramatically as it approaches the sun in this SOHO coronagraph movie:

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The movie spans a day and a half period from Nov. 27th (01:41 UT) to 28th (15:22 UT). In the early hours of the 27th, Comet ISON brightens dramatically, saturating the pixels in the digital camera of the SOHO’s coronagraph. By mid-day on the 28th, however, the comet’s head appears to fade. This is a sign that the nucleus has likely fallen apart. That would make ISON a headless comet–more appropriate for Halloween than Thanksgiving.

Researchers working with the Solar Dynamics Observatory report that they are seeing nothing along the track that ISON was expected to follow through the sun’s atmosphere.


UPDATE: Watch it go “poof” here:



UPDATE2: NASA JPL Insider Amy Mainzer tweets some last minute hope that ISON may be “undead”

A zombie comet, how cool is that?


UPDATE3: Now it seems back again, but looking entirely different than before. A number of astronomers indicate they don’t know what is left of it, maybe a chunk, maybe a smooshed drawn out nucleus or something else. Image from SOHO’s coronagraph:



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More snowball than rock.

The big CME didn’t help much ;>)

Pamela Gray

That is cool. Pacman eats the dot.

The g forces will not cause disintegration but the tidal forces might.
REPLY: Yes also noted on twitter by Gavin. I’ve corrected it. Some stretching of the nucleus along the path due to tidal force may have aided in disintegration. – Anthony


This reminds me of what happened to the theory of CAGW right after Climategate.


Must have picked up some of dat der carboon daoxade from Earth and heatud urp tooo much an exploded an’ all.


I’m sure it is impossible for such a small object to create a “CME”, but it sure looks like it did ??

G forces?
ISON is in free fall. Does not feel a thing\
REPLY: I meant tidal forces, and corrected the text before you wrote this comment – A

Paul Westhaver

The second gif is better. The accidental looping of the blue images with the preceding mass ejection location makes an ambiguous GIF. Red is better or add a few frames to the blue gif at the beginning and at the end.


Comet Icarus.

Tidal forces are not “associated” with speed only with distance and size of comet
REPLY: Yes, trying to write all this in-between family duties today, text was updated just about time you commented. Originally, I was thinking about how gravity interaction with Jupiter busted up comet Shoemaker-Levy9 – A


It was a poof that in the red video seems to be dramatically explosive. But at > 1,000,000 kph the kinetic energy would be….. astronomical.



I sure ISON’s destruction was George Bush’s fault.

Oh, well, only 48 years for Halley.


The CME isn’t the reaction of the nearby coming comet, it’s at the beginning of the sequence, at the startpoint of the movie where the comet is coming into picture at right. Butt still a magnificent sight!

I’m not convinced that it has been destroyed yet, I’ve seen comets behave like that in SOHO images only to see them reappear sometime after aphelion, its rare but it can and does happen.


Snowball warming!!!

While you are at it, remove the speed bit. Tidal forces has nothing to do with speed.
REPLY: Leif, the speed stays. It’s relevant to the report. Note the word “proximity” Speed of comet into solar wind will add shear force and ablation -A

Bwaa haa haa. So are all the Nibiru-nuts going to take down their Youtube videos? Search query for some major giggles. How long before CAGW goes poof?


A comet’s lights going out doesn’t guarantee its been destroyed. It has arc discharged its electric potential, so it no longer has its ionic glow. It may have survived the trauma of the arc discharge, and is now the same voltage as it environment.
On the other hand it may have been destroyed.
Too early to tell, but at this moment I’m guessing it hasn’t been destroyed

Bruce Cobb

It will be surely mist.


The CME might have pulled off the tail (it’s happened before) and the comet seems to disappear where the CME has exited from.
If the nucleus survived then it may take time to form a new tail.
Highly likely it disintegrated, however a two mile nucleus with no tail will be very hard to spot!

Anthony Check this out. What do you make of it?
REPLY: Almost looks like the comet skipped off the photosphere, but that may be solar wind transport of comet ejecta – Anthony


Now I don’t know whether to get up early to look or not!!

Bill Illis

There is definitely a track now on Lasco C2.
It does appear as those the solar wind wind or magnetic field adjusted its orbit slightly from the extreme slighshot it was supposed to have.
It must be a very small object now though.

Looks like some rock and dust did survive, not much to look at, though.


current SOHO webpage is displaying a photo taken 12 minutes later than the one posted by Bill Illis
taken at 20:36 GMT
looks like ISON is still substantially there

At least mankind can’t be blamed for this one.
Great shots, by the way. It’s terrific to be able to watch something like this. Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving to all. 🙂


If ISON had substantially exploded\fragmented we would have seen the fragments already.
It’s now looks like ISON survived the arc discharge without serious damage.

SOHO now confirms, ISON dead. Confirms that there is a “debris arc” but that is all.

ESA: dead Canadian Space Agency: Dead

High Treason

Explains why, when I had the first clear morning in ages and up early enough there was no comet to be seen.

J. Sperry

Now I can catch up on all the sleep I lost waking up early to see this dud. Never caught a glimpse of it without optical aid.

Paul Westhaver

any debris coming our way… should we inform Bill Nye the Science Liar?


the continuing trail is far too coherent \ concentrated to be a debris arc. It’s a single object creating the trail. When deciding if its a fragment or the whole comet, consider this : if its a small fragment making the significant trail, then why don’t all the other fragments make significant trails? Based on that I’d say its the whole comet.
latest pic at 21:36GMT from nasa inside Amy Mainzer

There looks to be a distinct cometary nucleus emerging, the solar wind may have blown much of the tail away from the nucleus, if enough of the comet has survived the tail should increase in size again.


Oh, that would be a pity.I’m watching right now BBC’s Horizon programme about the comet – getting excited about the potential sky display (which I had recorded from a few days ago).

meemoe_uk says:
November 28, 2013 at 2:17 pm
“if its a small fragment making the significant trail, then why don’t all the other fragments make significant trails? Based on that I’d say its the whole comet.”
Exactly, that’s a good point! Why are we not seeing two or more trails if it broke into two or more fragments?

hunter says:
November 28, 2013 at 12:59 pm
> It was a poof that in the red video seems to be dramatically explosive. But at > 1,000,000 kph the kinetic energy would be….. astronomical.
The kinetic energy would have been significant if it ran into a brick wall. Solar wind doesn’t count. It went from dirty snowball to cloud of gas and dust – with much of that KE along with it.


lol, the news reports coming out now are funny.
Australia business insider describes it as ” unbreaking news ” ! – Ison still alive


looks like the CME did strip the tail after all 🙂
The CME can strip the tail as it is ionised and the CME is magnetic energy.
Will be interesting to see if the tail grows again and if it’s orbit changed 😀


Great stuff. Thanks again for posting it.

Leo G



Too bad. It was supposed to be a good show. Next.


“striping the tail” is a bad analogy.
The comet loses its tail because the tail is plasma in glow mode due to a high voltage on the surface of the comet. The CME is a plume of ions, i.e. highly conductive plasma. When ISON flew into the CME it earthed its voltage ( or Suned it ), so the glowing stopped.
Why its now starting to glow again is interesting. It’s gaining voltage relative to its surroundings. Either the voltage it got from the sun is already significantly different to its current environment or charge is leaking from a reservoir in its core to its surface. Fun speculation.


Anthony, I sincerely hope you are wonderful team of moderators.
Understand this comment as an “explosion” of indignation.
A famous Comet ISON prophecy was made by Nostradamus. And there are connections between the close approach of Comet ISON to the Sun and the Mayan Haab calendar. Mundane astrology also connects the date of Comet ISON’s close approach in November, 2013, with major global events and possible catastrophes.
‘of the century’ = Hiayan
I do not know if it makes sense in English:
I think that model adjustment is required
[always remember to use the /sarc tag -mod]

Dubya G

I don’t think even Obamacare will help ISON much now. It appears to have gone the same way as the website.


What is the bright spot in the 2nd video at the left side?