Comet ISON brightened substantially, most visible on Thanksgiving


FYI:  Comet ISON brightened substantially last night and may be becoming visible to the eye alone, in a dark sky.  It could be that the comet is now simply finally “turning on.”  Or this could be a temporary brightening, meaning the comet will fade again in a day or two.  Or the comet’s nucleus could be fragmenting.  The comet is headed into the morning twilight now, as it hurtles toward its perihelion, or closest point to the sun, on November 28. Morning twilight is beginning to interfere with observations of Comet ISON, so if you’re going to search, grab your binoculars for scanning the eastern sky before dawn … and do it soon!   Read full article.

At least a million years ago, the comet began its journey from the Oort cloud, a swath of icy objects that orbit far beyond Neptune. This is Comet ISON’s first trip through the inner solar system.

A comet’s journey through the solar system is perilous and violent. A giant ejection of solar material from the sun could rip its tail off. Before it reaches Mars — at some 230 million miles away from the sun — the radiation of the sun begins to boil its water, the first step toward breaking apart. And, if it survives all this, the intense radiation and pressure as it flies near the surface of the sun could destroy it altogether.

Right now, Comet ISON is making that journey. It began its trip from the Oort cloud region of our solar system and is now travelling toward the sun. The comet will reach its closest approach to the sun on Thanksgiving Day — Nov. 28, 2013 — skimming just 730,000 miles above the sun’s surface. If it comes around the sun without breaking up, the comet will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere with the naked eye, and from what we see now, ISON is predicted to be a particularly bright and beautiful comet.\



Comet ISON: A Viewing Guide from Now to Perihelion


How to See Comet ISON This Week — Nov. 11-17

Comet ISON is now gently gliding across the constellation Virgo, which makes it a morning sky object. To see Virgo, you need to gaze eastward starting around 4 A.M. local time. This week the comet will rise about three hours before the Sun, making it visible to the eye, to binoculars, or in telescopes for an hour or so while the sky is still relatively dark.

By week’s end, on November 17, the comet will be easy to find because it will glide past Spica, the brightest star in Virgo.

Meanwhile, another comet also inhabits the morning sky, Comet Lovejoy (C/2013 R1), which is putting on an impressive show in the northern part of the constellation Leo. Lovejoy is visible during the same predawn hours as ISON, and last week Lovejoy was actually a bit brighter than ISON. You can find Lovejoy moving to the northeast along the top of Leo’s so-called Sickle, the backwards question mark asterism of this bright star group.



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