comet ison

C/2013 R1 – Comet Lovejoy

C/2013 R1 - Comet Lovejoy

Currently to the left of the Corona Borealis, Comet Lovejoy is an easy binocular item before dawn. My camera died three times so this is the best image I got. Good second prize in regards to the fact that Comet ISON got fried.

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RIP Comet Ison..

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After dipping into the Sun’s atmosphere, the comet slowly faded from a raging ball of ice and rock down to a small point of light.. then disappeared to never re-emerge. I had hoped its tail would survive and be visible, but the combination of new solar storms/mass ejections along with the fact that it evaporated very early on during its close pass to the Sun has left its tail unprotected from solar wind and obscured by its strong glare. Sigh..

That hurt my heart.

Comet ISON: Staying Alive

Comet ISON: Staying Alive

It’s about 2 hours to perihelion (the point in ISON’s orbit where it comes closest to the Sun), and Comet ISON is still hanging in there and brightening dramatically. It is currently lost in the glare of our parent star for ground based telescopes, yet a few satellites are keeping their cameras locked on the comet.

From what I know, it’s reaching breakneck speeds of nearly 650 miles per second. It has also been dodging coronal mass ejections (when the Sun goes BOOM) in the last couple days, one of which blew the tail off the less famous, yet very well known Comet Encke. However, it recovered and quickly grew a new tail.

There is a somewhat bright outlook for ISON, though it is still possible that it could break apart (which would still put on a night sky show) or vaporize (boo). It will cover nearly 4 million miles in the next couple hours before it dives nearly 700,000 miles from the boiling Sun.

I have been awaiting this for a year. It has all the good hallmarks of a drama.. prediction ranging from being brighter than the full moon to evaporating weeks before it even reaches the Sun.

I will leave this on a good note, though. Comet Lovejoy (from 2011) was also a sungrazing comet and it survived to put on an amazing show with an amazingly long tail for southern hemisphere viewers. Lovejoy was only a couple hundred meters wide while ISON is a few times larger. Here’s to hoping ISON pops out from behind the Sun to give us an amazing Thanksgiving treat!

ISON

ISON’s location for November 27th (too close to the sun to get a good look). It has sprinted from Virgo towards the sun for it’s Thanksgiving rendezvous.

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On December 1st, if all goes well, it should be at a +1 magnitude at least and getting high enough to see it right after sunset and right before sunrise. It will continue to rise each day for better viewing, but may immediately begin to dim.. or flare up. Who knows?

Good luck!

Perspective on Comet ISON.

Perspective on Comet ISON.

This photo is a rough comparison in the sizes of Earth and Comet ISON.

Firstly, the tail is absolutely magnificent. Stunning, even.

To the meat of the matter.. Comet ISON’s solid nucleus, the mass that is being shed into space by the Sun’s heat, is no larger than a mile and a half wide. By comparison, Hale-Bopp was over 40 miles wide.

However, ISON’s coma (the vaporized gas gathered and lit up surrounding the comet nucleus) is over 100,000 km wide. Meaning, next to the Earth, it’s massive.