Something really cool will be happening in the night sky during this holiday season. A comet is going to have a very close encounter as it whips around the Sun on Thanksgiving Day at a whopping 844,632 mph. If Comet ISON can survive its trip around the Sun, it could make for quite the show through the month of December and into early January. Here’s a picture of Comet ISON taken from the Hubble telescope back in April from NASA.
Comet ISON originated in the outskirts of our solar system among a big population of comets and icy rocks known as the Oort cloud. This comet has been hurtling towards the sun for the past million years and as it passes a mere 730,000 miles away on Thursday, there are pretty much two outcomes. The first would be that the comet disintegrates or breaks apart due to the solar radiation. It’s also possible the Sun could send out a large mass of solar particles that could take the tail right of ISON. Or the comet will survive and could become what scientists say would be the “Comet of the Century” and put on a brilliant display in the night sky.
Comet ISON’s brightness will increase substantially as it gets closer to its closest approach to the sun at 12:38 PM local time on November 28th. Only experienced observers should try and watch Comet ISON try and make it around the sun. DO NOT stare directly at the sun. You can safely watch it all go down on Thanksgiving on your computer by going to the link below. NASA will be hosting a Google+ hangout where you’ll be able to watch all the action LIVE.
If Comet ISON does survive after November 28th, the view will likely be incredible in the weeks to follow. Scientists have noticed that ISON has been brightening up quite a bit in the last week. Experienced comet watchers are becoming more confident that the comet has a chance to be ranked as one of the brightest in the last 500 years!
That would mean Comet ISON would be easily visible with the naked eye in the Northern Hemisphere. In early December, it will be seen in the early morning, low on the horizon to the east-southeast. Check out the graphic above. In late December and early January, it will be visible all night long. Also, as the month goes on in December the better viewing will be in the evening thanks to issues with the moon. It looks like the best show will be right around Christmas. By the start of January, the view will fade with the best viewing being seen through binoculars.
It’s important to note the most incredible views will be seen outside the light pollution of the cities. If all goes to plan, it will be sight that you won’t soon to forget!
Here are more details about the comet and viewing information.