Comet ISON likely destroyed by sun

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(CNN) — It’s not looking good for Comet ISON, according to experts taking part in a NASA Google Hangout.

ISON was making its closest approach to the sun, skimming about 730,000 miles above its surface, when it disappeared from the view of space telescopes.

“Comet ISON probably has not survived this journey,” Karl Battams with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and the NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign told the live video and chat update.

Experts said it appears ISON broke up into chunks and the sun evaporated it.

Observers were hoping that ISON would survive its Thanksgiving Day close encounter with the sun and emerge to put on a big sky show in December.

A fleet of spacecraft watched ISON plunge toward the sun, including NASA’s STEREO satellite, the European Space Agency/NASA SOHO spacecraft and the Solar Dynamics Observatory.

Comets are giant snowballs of frozen gases, rock and dust that can be several miles in diameter. When they get near the sun, they warm up and spew some of the gas and dirt, creating tails that can stretch for thousands of miles.

Most comets are in the outer part of our solar system. When they get close enough for us to see, scientists study them for clues about how our solar system formed.

Astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok discovered ISON in September 2012 using a telescope near Kislovodsk, Russia, that is part of the International Scientific Optical Network.

ISON — officially named C/2012 S1 — was 585 million miles away at the time. Its amazing journey through the solar system had been chronicled by amateur astronomers and by space telescopes.