GREENBELT, Md. (CBS DC) – Comet ISON appears to have flown too close to the sun and broken up.
NASA astronomers were hoping the celestial object would slingshot around the sun and reappear in the night sky, perhaps becoming one of the brightest comets ever recorded by humans.
But images transmitted from special satellites that study the sun show ISON appearing to “melt” as it approaches the heliosphere.
In the video above, you can see the comet growing dim and disappear as it nears the sun.
Astronomers say it’s not certain, but it appears the comet did not survive its million year journey to the inner solar system.
It likely didn’t actually make contact with the sun, but powerful solar winds and radiation probably caused it to break apart.
“So we think it must have broken up and evaporated before it reached perihelion (the point at which an object’s orbit is closest to the sun),” says Dean Pesness, project scientist with the Solar Dynamics Observatory.
But even though we have been deprived of a spectacular light show, scientists say they will still learn much about the early solar system from their observations.
ISON is from a band of objects in what is called the Oort Cloud at the far edge of our solar system.