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NASA: Tracking Comet ISON on Thanksgiving Day

In two days, millions of Americans will have their eyes on the dinner table, celebrating Thanksgiving. But NASA will be watching something different. A comet. We may be able to see it in December, if it survives a trip around the sun.
GODDARD SPACE CENTER - In two days, millions of Americans will have their eyes on the dinner table, celebrating Thanksgiving.
But NASA will be watching something different.  A comet. 

The comet ISON is about to skim the sun's upper atmosphere.  What does it mean? We turn to NASA to find out.

Joining us live is Alex Young with NASA, the Associate Director for Science in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
(Watch the video above to see our chat with Alex)

The comet ISON will reach its closest approach to the sun on Thanksgiving Day -- Nov. 28, 2013 -- skimming just 730,000 miles above the sun's surface. If it comes around the sun without breaking up, the comet will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere with the naked eye, and from what we see now, ISON is predicted to be a particularly bright and beautiful comet.

This is Comet ISON's first time around the sun, which means it is still made of pristine matter from the earliest days of the solar system's formation, because its top layers have never been stripped off by close calls with our sun.

On Thanksgiving Day, Comet ISON will slingshot around the sun. The intense radiation and pressure as it flies near the surface of our star could destroy it altogether - it may survive, or it may break up due to the sun's intense gravity and heat. Either way a fleet of NASA spacecraft are gathering great information about this time traveler from another era. 

And if it survives its journey, Comet ISON should be a dazzling sight in the December sky.


Learn more about Comet ISON:

http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/timeline-of-comet-ison-s-dangerous-journey/#.UpRv5OLUhy0

http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/smallworlds/cometison.cfm

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-341

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/video/?id=1256


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