September 30, 2012

Comet ISON C/2012 S1 will fly by our planet in 2013



Newly discovered comet could be spectacular sight in fall 2013. Located beyond Jupiter’s orbit now. Heading for close encounter with our sun next year.

Astronomers have discovered a new comet. It is currently moving in front of the stars of the constellation Cancer the Crab. It’s out beyond Jupiter’s orbit still, now, but it’s heading for a close encounter with the sun in 2013. 

Called C/2012 S1 (ISON) by astronomers, its orbital characteristics indicate it might become a very bright object in Earth’s sky (shining 15 times brighter than moon), beginning in November 2013. If so, all of us around the globe should be able to see it late next year.

The comet, discovered on September 24, 2012 by Eastern European and Russian astronomers using the International Scientific Optical Network telescope in Russia, will pass within two million miles of the sun's surface - making it s 'sun-grazing' comet.

It is on a 'parabolic' orbit, which means it probably originated from the outer skirts of the solar system, perhaps from the Oort cloud - a mass of icy debris which lies 50,000 times further from the sun than the Earth does.


If comet ISON survives the encounter, it could take thousands - potentially millions - of years before the comet passes back through the inner solar system.

No doubt about it … comets have a mystique. Once considered omens of doom, we now know them as icy visitors from the outer solar system that sweep near our sun, then disappear again into the depths of space, perhaps never to return. People get excited about comets. They are temporary visitors to our region of the solar system. This comet will be no exception. 

In November 2013, Comet ISON will pass less than 1.8 million kilometers (1.1 million miles) from the sun’s surface. That sounds like a lot, but it’s actually quite close – over 100 times closer to the sun than Earth. This near sweep past the sun might keep distant enough to prevent its breaking to pieces, as sometimes happens. If all goes well, the terrific heating Comet ISON will undergo when it’s closest to our parent star might turn the comet into a bright naked-eye object.

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