It’s not quite ready for its close-up, but comet ISON did get some attention from the Deep Impact space craft between January 17 and 18. The comet-filming craft took some new snaps of the comet about 493 million miles from Earth.
ISON, which was discovered by Russian astronomers in September of last year, is on a course toward the sun, where it will “graze” the star at 800,000 miles from the surface. ISON is set to come so close to the sun that its fate is uncertain; it may turn out to be a cosmological Icarus, melting and deteriorating as it gets too close to the sun’s heat, or it may emerge from its fly-by even brighter than before. As it approaches the sun this November it will reach its peak brightness, possibly outshining even the moon to the naked eye.
After passing by the sun, ISON will fly within 40 million miles of Earth, though there’s no risk it will collide with our planet.
Check out a chart of ISON’s projected path, or watch a video of ISON flying through the solar system posted by the BBC.