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Photos: Comet ISON May Have Survived Its Blistering Encounter

A view from NASA shows the Comet ISON streaming toward the sun (right) then emerging from the other side, dimmed. ESA/NASA/SOHO/Jhelioviewer hide caption

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ESA/NASA/SOHO/Jhelioviewer

A view from NASA shows the Comet ISON streaming toward the sun (right) then emerging from the other side, dimmed.

ESA/NASA/SOHO/Jhelioviewer

The Comet ISON appears to have survived after disappearing and being thought dead. New NASA photos show the comet emerging from behind the sun smaller and dimmer, but still throwing a big light trail.

This movie shows Comet ISON heading toward the sun and emerging from the other side.

This movie shows Comet ISON heading toward the sun and emerging from the other side.

As we reported Thursday night, scientists first said there was a chance that the bright streak seen traveling away from the sun was just debris left after the comet blew apart. But after a late-night analysis, NASA now says the comet's nucleus — or a part of it — survived its brush with the sun and is continuing on its journey.

"This whole event has been a roller coaster ride," says Alex Young, a NASA solar physicist. He was hoping to get a wealth of data as the comet passed through the sights of the spaced-based Solar Dynamics Observatory.

The Comet ISON shows up as a white arrowhead traveling away from the sun. Observers thought ISON had disintegrated when it passed close to the sun, but now it seems some of the comet may have survived. ESA/NASA/SOHO/GSFC hide caption

toggle caption
ESA/NASA/SOHO/GSFC

The Comet ISON shows up as a white arrowhead traveling away from the sun. Observers thought ISON had disintegrated when it passed close to the sun, but now it seems some of the comet may have survived.

ESA/NASA/SOHO/GSFC

"Even though we didn't see what we thought we were going to see, we still saw something new and exciting, and this is exactly why I do this stuff," Young says.

The comet's re-emergence has renewed hope among scientists and amateur star-gazers who wanted ISON to pass close to Earth and create a spectacular show in December's night skies.

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