A NASA spacecraft has captured its first photos of comet ISON, an icy wanderer that some scientists say could dazzle as a "comet of the century" when it swings through the inner solar system later this year.
The photos were taken by NASA's Deep Impact probe and reveal comet ISON as a bright, dusty ball moving against a star-filled background. The spacecraft snapped the pictures on Jan. 17 and Jan. 18 from a distance of about 493 million miles (793 million kilometers).
Comet ISON has been the focus of much anticipation among scientists and stargazers because of its potential to put on a spectacular display in late November, when it makes its closest approach to the sun. Some forecasts predict the comet could shine brighter than the full moon. As of mid-January, the comet's tail was more than 40,000 miles (64,400 km).
Some projections state that comet ISON, which is officially designated comet C/20012 S1 (ISON), could shine extremely bright in the nighttime sky, possibly even rivaling the full moon.
Comet ISON was discovered in September 2012 by Russian astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok using a 15.7-inch (0.4-meter) telescope of the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON), near Kislovodsk.more