Coming Soon: A Very Bright Comet

Astronomers have discovered a new comet that should be visible from Earth in 2013, and shine even brighter than a full moon at its peak!

The new comet, named C/2012 S1 (ISON) was found by the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) in Russia on 21 September when astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok captured it on CCD images taken through a 0.4-metre reflector. Its near-parabolic orbit suggests that it has arrived fresh from the Oort Cloud, a vast zone of icy objects orbiting the Sun, pristine remnants of the formation of the Solar System.

C/2012 S1 currently resides in the northwestern corner of Cancer. At magnitude +18 it is too dim to be seen visually but it will be within the reach of experienced amateur astronomers with CCD equipment in the coming months as it brightens. It is expected to reach binocular visibility by late summer 2013 and a naked eye object in early November of that year. Northern hemisphere observers are highly favoured. Following its peak brightness in late November it will remain visible without optical aid until mid-January 2014.

Better write those dates down when you get your new calendars for 2013. Read more about the comet at Astronomy Now. Link -via Metafilter

(Unrelated image credit: Flickr user NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center)


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And note from that article we may actually have two naked-eye comets in 2013, in March 2013, Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4). Then this other one in November 2013.
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