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Comet dances with sun, death; giving mixed signals

  • Comet-Craze

    In this photo provided by NASA, Comet ISON shows off its tail in this three-minute exposure taken on Nov. 19, 2013 at 6:10 a.m. EST, using a 14-inch telescope located at the Marshall Space Flight Center. The comet is just nine days away from its close encounter with the sun; hopefully it will survive to put on a nice show during the first week of December. At the time of this image, Comet ISON was some 44 million miles from the sun -- and 80 million miles from Earth -- moving at a speed of 136,700 miles per hour. (AP Photo/NASA, Aaron Kingery)

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Comet-Craze-1

    In this photo provided by NASA, a contrast-enhanced image produced from the Hubble images of comet ISON taken April 23, 2013 reveals the subtle structure in the inner coma of the comet. In this computer-processed view, the Hubble image has been divided by a computer model coma that decreases in brightness proportionally to the distance from the nucleus, as expected for a comet that is producing dust uniformly over its surface. ISON's coma shows enhanced dust particle release on the sunward-facing side of the comet's nucleus, the small, solid body at the core of the comet. This information is invaluable for determining the comet's shape, evolution, and spin of the solid nucleus. (AP Photo/NASA)

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Comet-Craze-2

    In this photo provided by NASA, its shows comet ISON from the Hubble Space Telescope.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

Comet-Craze-2

In this photo provided by NASA, its shows comet ISON from the Hubble Space Telescope.

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WASHINGTON — Comet ISON is teasing the solar system as it dances with the sun.

It’s giving astronomers mixed signals. Will it meet a fiery death? Or survive?

The comet will whip around the sun on Thanksgiving, only 1 million miles away from the super-hot surface. On Monday, it looked like it was about to die even before the comet gets closest to the sun. On Tuesday, it appeared healthy again.

Even if the comet dies, Johns Hopkins University scientist Carey Lisse said there’s a good chance that people on Earth will get an interesting cosmic show. The comet’s remains could paint the sky with a wide swath of green.

Lisse gives the comet a 30 percent chance of surviving.

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