NASA's Messenger probe, which has been in orbit around Mercury since March 2011, has captured two comets.
From November 6 to November 11, the Messenger probe, using an MDIS (Mercury Dual Instrument System) camera, took pictures of two comets - ISON and Encke, which practically simultaneously - November 28 and November 21 - will pass at a minimum distance from the Sun. Comets are now approaching the Sun and are gradually becoming brighter.
“We were thrilled to see that we captured ISON. This comet is not brightening as quickly as originally predicted, so we wonder how well we can capture it. Seeing her so early is a good omen for our future observations,”said Ron Vervack, head of the Messenger comet observation program, of the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University.
Comet Encke, discovered in 1786, became the first representative of the Jupiter family of comets. ISON was opened last year. Scientists believe it could reach the brightness of the full moon and become the brightest comet of the decade.