ISON is behind the Sun, a couple hundred million miles away. It will reach it’s nearest point relative to the Sun (within 850,000 miles, a sun-grazing comet) near the end of November.. and if it survives this part of the journey, which many comets do not, it has the potential to be as good as Comet Lovejoy was in 2011, but will be visible in the northern AND southern hemispheres (Lovejoy was just a Southie).
Interesting facts: 85% of comets come from the Oort cloud (beyond the Kuiper Belt where Pluto, Eris & other dwarf planets exist, in the farthest reaches of our Sun’s gravitational influence) on a very specific trajectory, which leads scientists to believe that most of these were a part of a very large comet that broke into several smaller comets that we see today. However, ISON is unique. It is not a part of this belt of comets. Different path and all. It is twice the size of Lovejoy and it began it’s journey to the Sun a whopping 10,000 years ago (holy shit!)! This particular comet has never traveled to the Sun before, it is brand new in this sense. Also, it’s makeup and path suggest it may gain enough speed sling-shotting around the Sun than it could be launched out of our system entirely, off into space. This is more unique than most once-in-a-lifetime comets. Most from this region come through every few thousand years (more or less).
It had a decent shot at surviving the Sun’s radiation and solar wind, but that also leaves room for it vaporizing or breaking apart at perihelion (closest point to the Sun). Some are hoping this is the comet of the century.
If it lives up to it’s maximum potential, it will be visible in daytime and nighttime, with a tail stretching a third of the sky and a nucleus that is brighter than the full moon.
I am so excited.