Tuesday, November 12, 2013

ISON Update

PhysOrg indicates that the Comet ISON will probably not be as bright as originally thought, but should still be as bright as Venus. As for viewing, it reports:

The comet can already be seen with powerful binoculars, and should become visible to the naked eye from the middle of this month. It is now rapidly approaching the Sun. In the early morning of 24 and 25 November, ISON will encounter the 2P/Encke comet, the separation between the two will be a mere three full Moon diameters.

The observation will be difficult, as the sky will be bathed in the light of the dawn. A further problem will be caused by the full moon, which will light up the stage. On the days around the perihelion, the observations will be the prerogative of experts and satellite observatories, such as STEREO.

If ISON survives the perihelion passage on 28 November, it will move steeply northwards and be visible before sunrise in the morning sky just above the eastern horizon. Its distance from the Sun will then increase as every day passes, its tail should reach its maximum size and appear on the horizon even before the head of the comet appears. From 1 to 6 December it will be possible to observe ISON at around 7 o'clock in the morning.

From the mid-December, the comet will also appear in the evening sky low in the west after sunset. Its tail will now be greatly flattened, almost parallel to the horizon, and its brightness will also decrease more and more at this time. It is unlikely that there will be an impressive star of Bethlehem, however, and around Christmas Eve ISON will again become an object for binoculars - even though on 27 December the comet will reach its point of closest approach to the Earth, hurtling past it at a distance of 64 million kilometres. Right on cue at the end of the year, the stellar performance of the tailed vagabond from outer space will be more or less history.

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