Watch out Comet ISON!

November 28th 2013: Comet ISON Status.

All our dreams of seeing brightest comet in the month of December is turned around.  Comet ISON finally ends its dangerous journey in our solar system.  On its closest approach, Sun wins the war by disintegrating comet.  Comet ISON is no more now (except the small part)!  This event was confirmed by space telescopes.

Whole event captured by SOHO
Other Reports:

You can still see other faint comets in the sky, here are the details.

(This post updated on 29th November 2013)


Comet in orbit and its tailIt’s time to dust out telescope, binoculars or whatever the optical instrument you have.  Within a month we will be able to witness one of the brightest comets which is designated as ‘comet of the century’.  If this comet travels according to predicted path (after passing sun), the prediction says, comet will become very bright in the month of December and it can be able to see through naked eye including its beautiful tail!  Be prepare to see and enjoy ‘Comet ISON’, which is having its ‘dangerous journey’ to our solar system.

Comets are the most beautiful objects in the night sky.  If a comet is bright enough, the spectacular view of head and tail in the night sky is un-explainable.   [Historically comets are associated with religious superstitious beliefs, but science disproves everything].   Comets are also the outermost object in our solar system.  Most of the comets origin place is Kuiper belt and Oort cloud, which are the outermost belts of our solar system (around 50000 AU from Sun).  Comets start their journey from here and go around the sun in a highly elliptical orbit.  This long journey across solar system makes their period very large.  There are two types of comets.  If a comet has a period less than 200 years they are called Short Period comets (ex. Halley comet- 76 years), again if their periods are more than 200 years they are called Long Period comets (ex. Great Comets).  All these comets are called periodic comets. And there are some comets which make one way trip to our solar system, which means they never come back in future!  They are lost in the interstellar space outside the solar system.  These comets have parabolic and hyperbolic orbits.        When comets are far away from Sun, they are just cold icy bodies.  When they approach sun, due to sun’s radiation comet core (icy body) melts and exhibit a beautiful tail.  They are called ‘Dust tail’.   As the distance between comet and sun becomes small, another tail starts appearing known as ‘Ion tail’ which is due to charge particles of sun and comet.  Ion tails point in the direction exactly opposite to the direction of sun, whereas dust tail will be in comet and 2 tailsthe opposite direction to sun but not exactly like ion tail.  This feature distinguishes the two tails in a comet photograph.  The central heart of the comet is composed of Coma and Nucleus.  Coma is a luminous cloud of water vapor, carbon dioxide and other gases which surrounds the Nucleus.  Nucleus is a solid core of the comet which comprises ice and frozen gases.  Hydrogen cloud envelops the coma and nucleus of the comet.  The typical size of the comet is shown in the picture beside (Image Source: Google Images).

Comet ISON by HST (Source: Wikipedia)

Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) was discovered on 21 September 2012 by Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok.  It was discovered by using 16inch reflector telescope of International Scientific Optical Network (ISON).  Comet name ISON is actually the acronym of this telescope network association.  Comet ISON began its journey from Oort cloud and it is said that this journey is a one way trip! Right now it is approaching sun.  On November 28th 2013, comet ISON will have closest approach to sun (1.2 million km which is over 100times closer to Sun than Earth) and becomes very bright.  Due to its closeness to sun (approximately 1 degree), sun’s glare block the visibility of comet.  Due to this comet is also called as sun grazing comet.  But space telescope can be able to see this.  This is Comet ISON’s dangerous journey to our solar system.  During its closest approach, the high intense solar radiation can break comet into pieces and debris may go into Sun, which ends the comet journey.  Or if Comet ISON survives Sun’s high intense radiation at this distance, it will emerge as a very bright comet.  Comets behavior is unpredictable at this short distance; we still don’t know what happens to ISON on its closest approach.  The prediction says if ISON succeeds solar radiation, it will become very bright and can be seen through naked eye in the month of December.  And there are rumors that comet can be visible during day time also.  But we still don’t know whether its brightness is sufficient to watch during day time.

The best month to see Comet ISON (naked eye comet) is December 2013, assuming comet survives its closest approach.  It can be seen during evening time as well as morning time from all over the world and all through the month.  Northern hemisphere will have best view.  Best time to see comet is on 10th to 14th of December.  Here I have attached view of comet ISON taken from stellarium (Time and date are mentioned in the image and notice the direction EAST, which means morning sky).

stellarium-000 copy


All over the world campaigning about this comet is already started and many of amateur astronomy clubs have taken this opportunity to spread the essence of science to public and students.  Even in India there is a campaigning known as “Eyes on ISON” which is conducting (probably over) series of workshops across India.  Right now all of them are waiting for 28th November.  What happens on that day we still don’t know!

In some sense the year 2013 can be called as ‘year of bright comets’.  This is the second bright comet which we are seeing in this year.                    In the month of March, comet “pan-STARRS” created buzz among amateur astronomers as well as professionals. Even this comet was in the mood of one way trip to our solar system.  In India due to monsoon, observation of this comet washed away especially in South India. Nevertheless North Indian amateurs became successful in observing and photographing this comet. Couple of times I with my friends from BAS went outside the city to observe the comet, but we were unsuccessful. What we have today is a different story.  If everything happens according to predicted way, Comet ISON will be a naked eye object from the city.  The view of comet with its big tail will be a spectacular view in the night sky.  The only thing which worries  lot is cloud! Let’s wait and hope for the best.

More Information:
Space Telescope:
Eyes on ISON:
Live Position of Comet ISON:
To download stellarium:

For public programs on Comet ISON:
Bangalore Astronomical Society:
Bangalore Planetarium:

Viswa Keerthy S


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