Sunday, November 17, 2013

Comet ISON visible to the naked eye: “if you want to see it, do it now”

via The Washington Times
Saturday, November 16, 2013 - A World in our Backyard by Laura Sesana
WASHINGTON, November 16, 2013 — Comet ISON, also known as the “Comet of the Century”, unexpectedly brightened Wednesday on its approach to the sun. According to researchers at NASA’s Comet ISON Observation Campaign (CIOC), the comet is now visible to the naked eye. How long it will be visible, however, is unknown.
Charging through our inner solar system, ISON will reach its perihelion, the point at which it comes closest to the sun, on Thanksgiving Day, November 28. At perihelion, ISON will come within 730,000 miles of the sun’s surface.

Will it make history, or be a historic flop?
Discovered in late 2012 and formally known as C/2012 S1, ISON could be spectacular — or a spectacular letdown. For months experts have been warning that ISON will not live up to initial media reports and forecasts of being as bright as the full moon.
“More likely, ISON will be one of the brightest comets in the past several years and, thanks to the global astronomy community, we hope one of the most broadly observed comets in history,” stated a recent status update by researchers at CIOC.

Comet ISON’s core is estimated by CIOC to be between 0.12 and 1.2 miles across. While much smaller than other comets like Hale-Bopp (19 miles) and Halley’s Comet (9 miles), if ISON survives its journey, many are expecting quite a show.

“Another interesting facet of Comet ISON is that it appears to be a dynamically new comet, fresh from the Oort Cloud,” write CIOC scientists on the website. “This means it has probably never been through our solar system, and has never been subjected to the melting effects of solar radiation. It’s a truly pristine example of early solar system material, and thus we are particularly eager to see the combined result of a ‘raw’ piece of solar system material being subjected to the sun’s outer atmosphere.”

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