Newly found comet promises dazzling display

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Newly found comet promises dazzling display

Postby @weather_wa » Thu Sep 27, 2012 5:45 pm

Newly found comet promises dazzling display: ... 599034.htm

Stuart Gary, ABC, Thursday September 27 2012.

Astronomers are monitoring a newly discovered comet, which is expected to put on a spectacular sky show next year, becoming visible with the unaided eye.

The celestial visitor, named C/2012S1 (ISON), was detected beyond the orbit of Jupiter last week, and will make its closest approach to the Sun in late November 2013.

The comet was discovered by astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok using the International Scientific Optical Network at the Kislovodsk Observatory in Russia.

Scientists have confirmed that the comet will pass about 1.1 million kilometres above the visible surface of the Sun.

Australian Astronomical Observatory astronomer Malcolm Hartley says it's impossible to tell if the comet will survive such an extremely close encounter.

"Quite often Sun-grazers or Sun-divers simply disintegrate - the head of the comet just evaporates because of the tremendous heat," says Hartley.

"Last Christmas, Comet Lovejoy was expected to be swallowed up when it got too close to the Sun, yet amazingly survived."

"This one's still an unknown, so we'll have to wait and see."

Expect the spectacular

Astronomers are speculating that C/2012S1 could be one of the brightest comets ever detected, easily visible in the northern hemisphere for several months as it approaches the Sun. Star watchers located south of the equator may only get a glimpse of its tail.

Some reports have suggested the comet could be as bright as magnitude -11 or even -16, making it more than 1000 times brighter than the planet Venus and almost as bright as a full Moon.

"It's an unknown," says Hartley. "It could be a dazzler or a complete washout, that's the problem with comets like this one."

If it survives its close encounter with the Sun, C/2012S1 will pass about 60 million kilometres from Earth on 26 December 2013.

Its orbit suggests C/2012S1 originated in the Oort Cloud, a distant comet repository a quarter of the way to the nearest star. But Hartley speculates that it could have previously passed by the Earth.

"There was a great comet in 1680 with an orbit very similar to this comet," he says. "So there's a faint possibility that it may be this comet [or part of it] coming back."

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Re: Newly found comet promises dazzling display

Postby SimonB » Thu Sep 27, 2012 7:30 pm

"Star watchers located south of the equator may only get a glimpse of its tail." :-(
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Re: Newly found comet promises dazzling display

Postby @weather_wa » Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:37 pm

The 'Comet of the Century' ... and other night-sky highlights for 2013: ... -2013?lite

By Alan Boyle

Next year's most eagerly awaited shows in the skies above might not happen — but that's exactly what makes them so eagerly awaited. There's nothing like uncertainty to build up the drama, and right now, Comet PANSTARRS and Comet ISON are surrounded by bright haloes of uncertainty.

The picture should be getting clearer in the weeks ahead for the comet formally known as C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS, which was discovered in 2011. It'll take a few more months to get a fix on C/2012 S1 ISON, which was first spotted this September. All we can say right now is, if the comets live up to their current high expectations, PANSTARRS could blaze as bright as Venus in March — and then, in November and December, ISON could outshine the moon to the "Comet of the Century."

"If Comet ISON can survive perihelion passage ... then we are almost surely in for a striking display in the morning sky as Comet ISON recedes from the Sun next December," veteran observer John Bortle said this month on the Comets Mailing List. "Its immense tail, partly the result of our extremely favorable viewing circumstances in this case and just as with the Great Comet of 1680, could well result in a tail of amazing length and surface brightness, even if tipped by only tiny, relatively insignificant head."

The best part is that these comets will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere, unlike the spectacles created by Comet McNaught in 2007 and by Comet Lovejoy a year ago. Why let the Southern Hemisphere have all the fun?

PANSTARRS and ISON are just two of the highlights coming up for skywatchers next year. Here's my top-10 list for 2013, plus some bonus picks from skywatching columnist Joe Rao:

Jan. 2-3 for Quadrantid meteors: If the weather's clear, the Quadrantid meteors should put on serviceable show this year. The Quadrantids are sparked by debris from asteroid 2003 EH1, and appear to emanate from an area of the sky known as Quadrans Muralis, around the northern tip of the constellation Bootes. The peak rate is expected to reach 80 meteors per hour, but the glare of a waning gibbous moon could interfere somewhat. "Unlike the more famous Perseid and Geminid meteor showers, the Quadrantids only last a few hours, so it's the morning of Jan. 3 or nothing," NASA says. Check out NASA's Quadrantids website for a video feed on the nights of Jan. 2-4.

April 25 for partial lunar eclipse: Three eclipses of the moon are coming during 2013 — and although none of them will be spectacular, they're worth keeping an eye on if you're in the right place. The April 25 partial eclipse will be visible from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. The other two lunar eclipses are a nearly imperceptible hint of a penumbral eclipse on May 25, and a somewhat deeper penumbral eclipse on Oct. 18-19 (visible, at least in part, from the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia). Even if you miss seeing these eclipses with your own eyes, there'll be plenty of photo galleries showing the moon in its best light.

March for Comet PANSTARRS: The comet is due to streak past Earth on March 5 and make its turn around the sun, known as perihelion, on March 9-10. The prime time for observers at mid-northern latitudes will come after perihelion, when PANSTARRS will be visible in the evening sky. On March 12, the comet is expected to share the sunset's afterglow with a beautiful crescent moon.

May 9-10 for annular solar eclipse: A "Ring of Fire" eclipse will roll across Australia, Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific, with a partial solar eclipse visible from a wider swath of the Pacific. If past history is any guide, some of us in North America will be watching the event unfold on the evening of the 9th, via webcasts from the scene.

May 24-28 for planetary party: Mercury, Venus and Jupiter mix it up in western skies over a series of nights in May, with Saturn and the moon adding their shine. The main event may well be the Venus-Jupiter conjunction on May 28 — but it won't be as spectacular as the double-planet feature we saw in February, because this one will take place so soon after sunset.

June 23 for Supermoon: The moon goes full just after this year's closest approach to Earth, meaning that it'll look 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than it does at maximum distance. Last May's Supermoon made such a splash that I suspect this could turn into an annual moon-watching event.

Aug. 11-13 for Perseid meteors: Annual meteor showers have their ups and downs, and the advance word is that 2013 will be an "up" year for the Perseids. The moon will be a mere crescent in the morning sky, cutting down on the glare. The flux of shooting stars is expected to be normal, peaking at around 100 meteors per hour.

Oct. 12 for moon observation: International Observe the Moon Night provides an opportunity for veteran skywatchers to show you the moon at its best — no, not during the full moon, but during the first-quarter phase. That's when you can get a good look at the moon's craters and shadowy mountains. Check in with the InOMN website for updates.

Nov. 3 for hybrid solar eclipse: This hybrid is a strange one, starting out as an annular "Ring of Fire" eclipse and turning into a total eclipse as the moon's shadow races across the planet. The track of annularity-totality runs across the Atlantic, goes through the middle of Africa and ends up in Somalia. If you can't afford a cruise or an expedition, keep a watch on the webcasts.

November-December for Comet ISON: Will ISON shine "brighter even than the full moon" a year from now? That seems hard to believe right now, but by next autumn, astronomers should have a good idea just how much of a phenomenon the comet could turn into. NASA's Curiosity rover may be able to snap a picture when ISON passes by Mars in September, and it could become visible to the naked eye in October. It's due to come well within a million miles of the sun at perihelion on Nov. 28 — and that will be the most dramatic moment for skywatchers. Some comets, like last year's Comet Elenin, break up when they slingshot around the sun. Others, like Comet Lovejoy, survive the encounter spectacularly. If ISON lucks out, we could well be raving about the Great Christmas Comet of 2013 by this time next year. (Just don't believe anyone who tells you it's a doomsday comet.)

Bonus round: Over at, Joe Rao's "13 must-see stargazing events for 2013" also include a close conjunction of the moon and Jupiter on Jan. 21, great evening views of Mercury from Feb. 2 to 23, and a holiday show featuring Venus in December. And don't forget the northern lights: Although auroral displays are hard to predict, the height of the sun's 11-year activity cycle should bring some great light shows to Earth's higher latitudes in 2013.

Update for 8:50 p.m. ET: British educator-astronomer Stuart Atkinson has set up a blog titled "Waiting for ISON" to monitor the comet countdown. Atkinson is also in charge of "The Road to Endeavour" blog about the Opportunity rover on Mars; and The Gale Gazette, which keeps tabs on NASA's Mars Curiosity mission.

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Re: Newly found comet promises dazzling display

Postby Blue Skies » Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:43 pm

I wouldn't get too excited about it just yet. They can be pretty capricious things and it could be a fizzer, too. And from the talk I've seen on the astronomy forums the Sun is going to be a serious impediment to this one, the alignments all wrong for us to get a really good safe view.

Anyway, there is another one arriving next month that's expected to put on a half decent show from late Feb into early March - Comet PANSTARRS. I'd be looking for info on that from the end of January (its still a bit faint at the moment.)
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Re: Newly found comet promises dazzling display

Postby @weather_wa » Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:50 pm

Comet Coming in 2013, Could be Brighter Than the Moon: ... r-moon.htm

Dec 31, 2012

The comet coming in 2013 can possibly rival the "Great Comet of 1680," according to astronomers. ISON, as it's called, was discovered in September.

Back in the 1970's, Comet Kohoutek was billed as the "Comet of the Century," but it turned out to be so disappointing that it ended being inspiration for late night show jokes. But this new comet coming in 2013 will possibly outshine the moon.

According to Time, the comet is called ISON, named for the International Scientific Optical Network, of which discoverers Artyom Novichonok and Vitali Nevski members. It was first seen when it was nearly 600 million miles (965 million km) from the Sun, well beyond the orbit of Jupiter.

That's unusually distant for a comet to be spotted: these interplanetary chunks of debris usually live in the frigid realms out beyond Neptune and are more or less invisible until solar heat begins boiling ice and dust from their surfaces, forming a light-reflecting halo (known technically as its coma), that makes them seem bigger than they really are, the report says.

Comet ISON is believed to be part of the Oort Cloud, an enormous patch of icy objects and other comets, that are about one light year from Earth.

Orbital calculations indicate that comet ISON will travel closest to the sun, less than 750,000 miles (1.2 million km) above the sun's surface, making it a true "sungrazer," on Nov. 28 which is Thanksgiving Day in the United States.

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Re: Newly found comet promises dazzling display

Postby @weather_wa » Mon Dec 31, 2012 7:37 pm

Comet ISON to pass very close to the Sun in November 2013: ... s.htm#ison

On 24 September 2012 a new comet was discovered by two amateur astronomers and was named C/2012 S1 (ISON). At the time of its discovery, ISON was beyond the orbit of Jupiter and it will move into the inner solar system in 2013. The comet's orbit will bring it near the Sun in 2013 and by late November, it might become a bright enough to be seen in the daytime. A few weeks later, the comet's outward trajectory will bring it to just 0.4 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. The path of comet ISON believed to be very similar to the comet of 1680, whose path Isaac Newton plotted and its success inspired Edmond Halley to investigate the paths of past comets and led to the discovery of Halley's Comet.
Will the comet be visible from Australia?

It will be visible in the northern and southern hemispheres for at least two months, from November 2013 to January 2014. On 29 November 2013 (Australian time), Comet ISON will pass just 1.2 million kilometres from the Sun. From Earth, ISON will be about one degree from the Sun. The comet will be visible low in the east before sunrise in the week or two before closest approach to the Sun (known as perihelion). If the comet grows a visible tail, it should be pointing upwards, away from the rising Sun.

After perihelion as it moves towards Earth we will not see much from the southern hemisphere. In the evenings the comet will set before the Sun and in the mornings it will rise with the Sun.

Assuming the comet does not fade away (as Comet Elenin did in August 2011), the best chance to see Comet ISON from the southern hemisphere will be from mid to late November 2013 in the mornings before sunrise and in the daytime about the date of perihelion on 29 November 2013.

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