Hopefully Clear Skies Will Provide Viewing Possibilities for Comet ISON

Photo Credit: Kahler Asten, Germany, November 16, 2013
(as provided by nasa.gov)

Clear Skies Late This Year Could
Provide an Opportunity
to see Comet ISON

In September 2012, Comet ISON was first
discovered by Russian astronomers,

Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok, using the
International Scientific Optical Network in
Kislovodsk, Russia (from which it got its name).

As reported only a few days ago by NASA's
Comet ISON Observing Campaign, "By
November 15, there was no doubt that ISON
was beginning to wake up [and shine
increasingly bright]." In addition, "comet ISON
is now being reported as a naked eye object in some
locations. . .Most visual (including bionocular)
observers are reporting comet ISON is mainly
a 'green fuzzball,' with maybe a very faint tail

Unfortunately, within only a matter of days, comet
ISON will disappear into the Sun's glare." Nevertheless,
between now and then, Patrick Wiggins, NASA/JPL
solar system ambassador to Utah, says he is
"keeping [his]. . .fingers crossed that with a little
bit of luck we'll have a nice comet to see around the
Thanksgiving time frame"-- although, he adds, "I'm
not putting any money on it."

For those willing to get up early enough on clear
mornings in Middle Tennesee to try and catch
a glimpse of comet ISON, between now and
Thanksgiving, it is our understanding that you will
need to look low toward the east-southeast horizon
in the pre-dawn sky. (Best viewing possibilities,
of course, will be in the darkest non-urban areas)

Comet ISON'S future, over the upcoming weeks, is
far from certain. The comet will soon disappear
into the Sun's glare, and whether it will re-emerge for
more clear-night viewing in December and January is
still a bit suspect. Due to it's small size and unusually
close passage to the sun, the comet may not even
survive its full journey around the sun, and NASA
reports that a simple coronal mass ejection from
the sun at "the right time" could "pull the comet's
tail right off."

However, if comet ISON survives its trip around the
sun, "there's a good chance that it will be incredibly bright
and easily visible with the naked eye in the Northern
Hemisphere." In late December and early January it
could be visible all night long!

For more information on comet ISON, including updates
on its status, you can go to the NASA website, at nasa.gov,
and search for 'ISON.' You can also check out their
updated information on the "NASA Comet ISON Observing
Indeed, NASA offers us the following titilating
encouragement to keep a routine check on their Observing
Campaign webpage in the coming days: "[S]tay tuned. . .
as we guide you through the most perilous part of comet
ISON's journey through the solar system. Will it be fried by
intense solar radiation? Will it be ripped apart by the Sun's
extraordinary gravitational pull? Or will it survive in one
piece and become a spectacular night sky object? We have no
idea, but we can't wait to find out!"

For those who are interested in trying to find comet ISON
in the early pre-dawn sky--Good Luck! Hope you get enough
clear skies over the upcoming days to catch a glimpse.

Note: Don't expect comet ISON to look like the photo at the
top of this page. According to NASA, photos like the one above
"are taken with specialized equipment, powerful telescopes and
years of experience in processing astronomical images. Most
visual (including binocular) observers are reporting comet ISON

is mainly a "green fuzzball, with maybe a very faint tail visible."

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