/* Style Definitions */
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
font-family:"Times New Roman";
It may only be a few days into the New Year, but professional and amateur astronomers are already excited about Comet ISON. Predicted to possibly be brighter than the moon, Comet ISON is in the running to become one of the brightest comets ever seen, surpassing both Comet Hale-Bopp (1997) and Comet McNaught (2007).
Comet ISON will come within 800,000 miles (1.2 million km) of the sun’s surface on November 28, 2013, which is over 100 times closer to the sun than Earth. Being this close to the sun might cause Comet ISON to break to pieces, but if it doesn’t, Comet ISON may even be bright enough to see in daylight.
While still very distant and faint, observers have plenty of time to plan for this Comet’s arrival. Here’s a timeline of its projected journey thus far:
August and September 2013. Sometime in August or September, Comet ISON should become visible to those searching for it in dark locations, using small telescopes or possibly even binoculars.
October 2013. By October, Comet ISON should become just barely visible to the unaided eye. As the comet sweeps in front of the constellation Leo, it will eventually wind up near the planet Mars. Throughout the month, the brightness of Comet ISON is expected to increase.
November 2013. Comet ISON will continue to brighten throughout the month as it nears the closest point to our sun on November 28, first passing very close to the planet Saturn (which can be seen in the constellation Virgo). If all goes well on November 28 and the comet doesn’t break up, ISON will at that point have the potential to be as bright, if not brighter, than the moon. This would briefly make Comet ISON a daylight object. Although the comet will be bright, viewers will still need to look carefully to see it amongst the sun’s glare.
December 2013. This may well be the best month to see Comet ISON, assuming it does not break during its close pass near the sun. During December, the comet will be visible both in the evening sky after sunset and in the morning sky before sunrise. As ISON’s distance from the sun continues to increase, it will inevitably grow dimmer.
Throughout the beginning months of 2013, the comet’s predictions are sure to change as grow as more information becomes available and it slowly moves towards the sun. Consider learning about the constellations so Comet ISON’s path can be better tracked; this will leave you ready and knowledgeable about the further excitement that’s sure to come as it gets closer to November 28!