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Comet Of The Century?

Out near the orbit of Jupiter, a faint speck of light is moving through the black of space.  At first glance it doesn't look like much, no brighter than a thousand distant stars speckling the velvet sky behind it and it takes a big telescope make out that it is a comet.

Comet ISON was discovered by Russian astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok in September 2012. It's named after their night-sky survey program, the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON), a group of observatories in 10 countries organized to track objects in space thus the ISON in the comet's name.

Around the time of its perihelion, or closest approach to the sun, which will occur on November 28, 2013, Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) has the potential to become a striking object visible to the eye alone. Will Comet ISON become a legendary comet of the century? It might. But it might not. Comet ISON will come within 800,000 miles (1.2 million km) of our sun’s surface on November 28. That’s over 100 times closer to the sun than Earth. This close pass to the sun might cause Comet ISON to break to pieces, and, if that happens, the comet might fizzle. Or ISON might emerge from perihelion bright enough to see easily with the eye, with a long comet tail that stretches across a quarter of the sky. Comets are notoriously unpredictable. Still, this comet is one you’ll want to watch.

For months after it swings by the sun, Comet ISON will be well placed for observers in the northern hemisphere. It will pass almost directly over the North Pole, making it a circumpolar object visible all night long. The comet could blossom into a striking naked eye object visible even in broad daylight.


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Comet ISON

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