Have you been hearing about Comet ISON on the news lately? How can you track what may be the comet of the century? Here is a guide from The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada including resource links to help you learn more and keep you up-to-date about Comet ISON.
Amateur astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok spotted the comet in photographs taken by an ISON telescope in September 2012. The comet appeared unusually bright relative to its distance indicating that its nucleus may be between 1km and 10km across.
At the time of its discovery in late September 2012, Comet ISON was 1 billion km from Earth in the constellation of Cancer. In February 2013, NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft took a series of images of the comet. Preliminary results indicated that although the comet was still in the outer solar system, more than 763 million km from the sun, it was already active.
November 27th: Comet ISON will enter the field of view at NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) *
November 28th: ISON reaches perihelion at 18:00 PM EST/ 23:00 UT. During the Perihelion Passage, Comet ISON will make a hair pin turn around the Sun, approximately, 1.86 million kilometres from its surface.
What`s with all the Comet ISON hype
Comets are notoriously unpredictable. Comet ISON has the potential to live up to the hype, but it also has the potential to do nothing.
The Sun’s Tidal forces and solar radiation have been known to destroy comets. A recent example is Comet Elenin, which broke apart and dissipated in 2011 as it approached the sun. Elenin was a much smaller comet though. Comet Lovejoy, which flew through the sun's atmosphere in 2011, emerged intact and wowed observers with a garish tail for weeks.
Comet ISON is probably at least twice as big as Comet Lovejoy and will pass a bit farther from the sun’s surface so enthusiasts are optimistic that ISON could survive and put on a great show.
What Should You Do?
1. Look for activities with you local RASC centre, http://www.rasc.ca/locations-across-canada
2. Educate yourself; the RASC’s Observers Handbook offers tips on observing, drawing, locating and photographing comets
3. Be wary of sensational headlines
4. Gather more information from reliable science-based reports
The RASC has gathered resources for you to learn more about and track Comet ISON:
History and Timeline of Comet ISON
Astronomy Magazine – http://www.astronomy.com/magazine/events/comet-ison
Best Views of Perihelion
*NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) -
Interactive ‘Comet of the Century’ Tracker: Where’s ISON Now?
Time Magazine Online-
The National Science Foundation - Amateur Astronomer Photo Contest
Sky and Telescope – Comet ISON Photo Contest - http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/announcing-the-cometisonphotocontest/
Comet ISON Apps
Comet ISON – (US $0.99) https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/comet-ison/id615547037?mt=8
Comet Watch – (Free) https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/comet-watch-powered-by-distant/id710273903?mt=8