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Comet ISON
November 20, 2013 7:19 AM   Subscribe

This could be your last best chance to see Comet ISON as it hurtles towards the sun following a nearly 16-fold increase in brightness last week. Many astronomers are doubtful it will survive its Solar close encounter, but if it does it could end up visible during the day when it returns in December, rivaling the Great Comet of 1680.

In the mean time you can track its distance to the Sun and Earth in real time and enjoy some spectacular photos by amateur photographers.
posted by alms (22 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

(previously and previously.)
posted by alms at 7:24 AM on November 20, 2013

So bummed that this isn't turning out to be the spectacular show they predicted. I could probably get up at 5:00 AM and catch it, but from what I'm hearing around these parts it's very difficult to spot with the naked eye and almost not worth getting up early for.

I managed to catch Pan-STARRS last March, just barely, and I'm not sure ISON is much better than that one. I also have a decent view of sunset, after which Pan-STARRS was visible, but an obstructed view of Sunrise, so I'm not sure I could see ISON anyway.

Also, your first link is a week old so the "this weekend" they mention is actually last weekend.

Let's hope ISON survives the trip and it's visible when it comes around again.

Thanks for the post.
posted by bondcliff at 7:33 AM on November 20, 2013

"It's naked eye if you're deep, deep in the country, the sky is pristine and clear and your eyes are fantastically good"

So, basically don't bother looking unless you have a pair of binocs then....

Has anyone managed to see this? I haven't decided if it is worth getting up at the crack of dawn given that it is unlikely I could see it.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:34 AM on November 20, 2013

Clearly we're about to be invaded by Normans.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:53 AM on November 20, 2013

So bummed that this isn't turning out to be the spectacular show they predicted

The thing it we knew that it was probably not going to be a spectacular show unless it survived perihelion, and it hasn't yet.
posted by eriko at 8:04 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was mildly interested until I got to the part where you have to look for it an hour before dawn.
posted by rocket88 at 8:05 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Okay. Big note of Caution.

After today, really, do NOT try to use binoculars to see this. It will be getting far too close to the sun. But, after another outburst, there are reports of it reaching Mag. +4, which puts it visible in suburban skies, and close to visible in city skies.

To see it now, you need a clear flat horizon to the east. Chicagoans, the Lakeshore is just about perfect for this! People of Los Angeles, you are completely screwed here.

Basically, you're going to need to be up tomorrow morning just before the sky really starts becoming light in the east. As the sky starts to lighten, look for a bright star rising in the east, this is Spica, followed by a brighter thing that doesn't quite look like a star, this is Mercury. Comet Ison will be between these two, closer to Mercury on Thursday morning, just beside Mercury on Friday.

Basically, it's a race between the sky brightening and the Comet brightening. Tomorrow morning, the Comet will be higher, so the sky around it will be darker, Friday, it will be lower, but it'll be closer to the sun, so it might be brighter.

After Friday, it'll be too close to the sun. If it survives perihelion, it'll reappear in morning sky in early December, then move to the evening sky, fading all the while. How long it lasts depends on how much survives perihelion.
posted by eriko at 8:17 AM on November 20, 2013 [9 favorites]

after another outburst

I like the thought of this comet flying towards the sun red faced, swearing, and flinging stuff every direction in a fury.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:23 AM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Like Rob Ford?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 8:34 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Has anyone managed to see this? I haven't decided if it is worth getting up at the crack of dawn given that it is unlikely I could see it.

I haven't seen it personally, I live with too much light pollution but I've been following and heard that it's really little more than a fuzzy green blob, even through binoculars.
posted by IvoShandor at 8:53 AM on November 20, 2013

If getting up at 5 a.m. is not your cup of tea, there's also Comet Lovejoy, and it rises in the late evening.

I haven't seen it myself due to endlessly cloudy skies, but it is reportedly visible with binoculars.
posted by Brodiggitty at 9:49 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sadly there's a nice big hill on our East, so I'd have to drive somewhere to see it. I'm willing to get up at the ass-crack of dawn, but not drive somewhere right afterward unless I'm getting paid.

It's supposed to be relatively clear tonight. I'll have to see if I can spot Lovejoy.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:56 AM on November 20, 2013

I hope it survives the sun. If not, I got plenty of great views of Hale-Bopp in 1997.
posted by Badgermann at 10:47 AM on November 20, 2013

A great post from Phil Plait.
posted by bondcliff at 9:47 AM on November 21, 2013

Thanks, bondcliff, very interesting!
posted by alms at 11:06 AM on November 21, 2013

My mother and I were driving west from NYC to Harrisburg, and then South to Hagerstown on Monday night.

"Is that a star?"

I looked up and saw this little pinpoint of light. It was the only star in the cloudy sky. I guess the clouds moved and it suddenly turned into something spectacular. Bright white flashes of lightning coming out of it in all directions.

It haunted our trip. We saw it a dozen times, some lasting for 15 minutes. We didn't think we were going to tell anybody about this.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:55 PM on November 26, 2013

You most likely saw Venus, which is very spectacular right now.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:45 AM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Comet ISON likely didn't survive trip around sun.

posted by fimbulvetr at 12:17 PM on November 28, 2013

Or did it....
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:47 AM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Comet ISON Post Mortem
posted by homunculus at 2:47 PM on December 1, 2013

posted by bondcliff at 12:34 PM on December 2, 2013

In Memoriam
posted by homunculus at 2:39 PM on December 2, 2013

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