Comet ISON, formally known as C/2012 S1, was a sungrazing comet discovered on 21 September 2012 by Vitali Nevski (Виталий Невский, Vitebsk, Belarus) and Artyom Novichonok (Артём Новичонок, Kondopoga, Russia). The discovery was made using the 0.4-meter (16 in) reflector of the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) near Kislovodsk, Russia. Data processing was carried out by automated asteroid-discovery program CoLiTec. Precovery images by the Mount Lemmon Survey from 28 December 2011 and by Pan-STARRS from 28 January 2012 were quickly located. Follow-up observations were made on 22 September by a team from Remanzacco Observatory in Italy using the iTelescope network. The discovery was announced by the Minor Planet Center on 24 September. Observations by Swift in January 2013 suggested that Comet ISON's nucleus was around 5 kilometers (3 mi) in diameter. Later estimates were that the nucleus was only about 2 kilometers (1 mi) in diameter. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) observations suggested the nucleus was smaller than 0.8 kilometers (0.5 mi) in diameter.
Shortly after Comet ISON's discovery, the media reported that it might become brighter than the full moon. However, as events transpired, it never became bright enough to be readily visible to the naked eye. Furthermore, it broke apart as it passed close to the Sun. Reports on 28 November 2013 (the day of perihelion passage) indicated that Comet ISON had partially or completely disintegrated due to the Sun's heat and tidal forces. However, later that day CIOC (NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign) members discovered a coma-like feature, suggesting a small fragment of it may have survived perihelion. On 29 November 2013, the coma dimmed to an apparent magnitude of 5. By the end of 30 November 2013, the coma had further faded to below naked-eye visibility at magnitude 7. On 1 December, the coma continued to fade even further as it finished traversing the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory's view. On 2 December 2013, the CIOC announced that Comet ISON had fully disintegrated. The Hubble Space Telescope failed to detect fragments of ISON on 18 December 2013. On 8 May 2014, a detailed examination of the disintegration was published, suggesting that the comet fully disintegrated hours before perihelion.
On 11 August 2014, astronomers released studies, using the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) for the first time, that detailed the distribution of HCN, HNC, H2CO, and dust inside the comae of comets C/2012 F6 (Lemmon) and C/2012 S1 (ISON).