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Will we see Comet ISON in our morning sky?

Written by Pete Zapadka on .

 

Let's be clear: Comet PanSTAARS was an astronomical disappoinment earlier this year. Astronomers had hoped the interloper to this corner of the solar system would put on a brilliant display in the skies over Earth.
 
But it barely reached naked-eye visibility in mid to late March.
 
Fast-forward to Comet ISON, also expected to be a brilliant visitor starting later this month. Chances are you've heard about it.
 
The comet's visit to our area of the solar neighborhood has been anticipated greatly since its discovery in September, 2012, by the 16-inch reflector of the International Scientific Optical Network near Kislovodsk, Russia.
 
Comet ISON will make its closest approach to the sun on Thanksgiving Day at just 1,150,000 miles, awfully close to our star's searing heat. How will the comet, which effectively is a dirty snowball visiting the inner solar system for the first time since it left the distant Oort Cloud, react to its close pass to the sun? Will it survive or break apart? Will it become brilliant or will it fizzle?
 
Time will tell. Until recently, ISON looked as though it would be another . . . well, to coin a phrase used by astronomers, a dud. But breaking news! Comet ISON has brightened over the past few days to a point at which observers in very dark sites can see it without using binoculars or a telescope. Keep up the faith -- maybe, just maybe, it'll be a brilliant object soon in our morning sky.
 
NASA offers this view of what might come from the comet. It's wise to stay updated with reports from Sky & Telescope, amateur astronomy's top magazine.  It'll offer finder charts and more for Comet ISON.
 
While your eyes are on the sky, don't forget about Comet Lovejoy. Sky & Telescope is a good source for follow it and other comets visible now.
 
Remember: turn off the TV and turn onto the night sky.
 
(Pete's astronomical tweets are available at https://twitter.com/pzapadka).
 
20131115hubblecometison
          (A recent photo of Comet ISON by the Hubble Space Telescope)

 

 

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