November 14, 2013 in Space
Comet ISON is nearly here — the potentially incredible comet should soon be visible to the naked eye, reaching perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) on November 28. Once perihelion occurs — if the comet survives — it should brighten significantly, and become visible in both the evening sky after sunset, and in the morning sky before sunrise.
The best dates to watch will likely be right in the middle of December, probably between the 10th and the 15th — though there’s a real possibility that Comet ISON will remain visible throughout all of December and also early January. The comet will probably be easier to spot in the evenings, but it should be visible both before sunrise and after sunset. With regard to where to find Comet ISON in the sky in December — when watching before sunrise, you’ll want to look to the East, and when watching after sunset, you’ll want to look to the West/North-West.
For those interested, Comet ISON is already visible with only a pair of binoculars, simply point your binoculars to the South-Eastern portion of the predawn sky — it’s currently located near the constellation of Virgo, specifically right next to the very bright star Spica. While it’s rather faint currently, it’s expected to brighten significantly over the next two weeks.
Something else to note, the Earth will actually pass through the debris trail left behind by Comet ISON in the middle of January (14th-15th) — there’s a real possibility that we’ll experience a meteor shower as a result, or, at the very least, some night-shining noctilucent clouds. (A note — Comet ISON will make its closest approach to the Earth on December 26, 2013, at that time it will be ‘only’ around 28 million miles away from us.)
Here are some images of Comet ISON that have been taken over that past few months: