The most beautiful thing on Earth might fight a tough fight, but it will eventually get trumped by the most beautiful things our universe has to offer. NASA recently released an image of the comet ISON, and in true space-photo fashion, it would look spectacular on my wall, maybe done up so that it looks super groovy under a black light. Somebody turn on some Iron Butterfly.
Captured by the Hubble Space Telescope on April 30, the image is the result of filtering and a change in focus. While astronomers use Hubble to track ISON, this doesn’t allow for the smaller specks of starlight in the background to show up at all. So while it’s cool to have a photo of just ISON doing its thing, it’s so much more fantastic to see it set against the magnificence of space. It almost has to fight for our attention.
To do this, the Hubble Heritage Project trained the lens on the stars in the background, taking pictures as ISON soared on, totally thinking it was the center of attention. Check your ego, ISON! They then stacked images atop one another, which allowed many of the dimmer lights to build up and really pop. And even though it’s cloudier than some might like, due to it not being in focus, ISON still looks like a beast.
The two Hubble filters used allowed red light and greenish-yellow light (represented as blue) to creep in. The redder stars represent the older class, while the bluish ones are newer. ISON itself isn’t producing any light, so its color is gained from the sun’s reflection.
Take a look at the stack of unfiltered images below, before they were shifted to create the final look.
Astronomers all over will probably make ISON an Internet sensation when it becomes visible to the naked eye starting this November, where it should be visible for at least two months, possibly even appearing brighter than the moon. Not bigger, of course, but brighter. I can’t wait. Here’s a rather simple graph showing ISON’s trek through the solar system.
The graph screencap was taken from the below Google Hangout discussion, which took place on July 17. ISON is discussed at length, and you can pretty much find out anything you’ve ever wanted to know about this comet and comets in general.
So the next time somebody tells you that looking down at your phone means you’re missing out on the wonder that is nature, just show that person a digitally manipulated image of the cosmos, and then direct that person to our website. Free publicity!