An unprecedented astronomical event is set to take place on this afternoon and has space experts all abuzz today.
Comet Ison has been hurtling towards Earth at more than a million kilometres an hour.
The comet is expected to effectively graze the surface of the sun this afternoon. It may start emitting bright light in the coming days and could even be visible to the naked eye.
“It can trail material behind it for literally millions of kilometres, meaning that we now got this object, which has a very large surface area, to reflect light,” explains York University astronomy professor Paul Delaney.
Ison comes from an icy region at the furthest reaches of the solar system and has been billed as a potential “comet of the century.”
“This is actually a preserved part of the early solar system and it’s literally been in a deep freeze for 4.5-billion years,” says NASA astrophysicst Michelle Thaller. “Nothing has changed it or melted it or anything.”
The sun’s heat and gravitational pull could destroy Ison before it has a chance to light up the sky.
If it survives, Ison will be closest to Earth on December 26.