Could Comet ISON be the 2013 entry for Comet of the Century? NASA is taking it very seriously! Officially known as C/2012 S1, Comet ISON was first detected in September of last year when it was some 585 million miles away. Below is a close up of the comet taken by the Hubble Space Telescope back in May. Additional images were recently taken in June by the Spitzer Space Telescope, detailing the chemical make up of its gases. Comet ISON is fresh from the Oort Cloud, well past the orbit of Pluto. What makes this comet interesting is that it is on a dangerous perihelion with its closest approach to our Sun expected on Thanksgiving Day. Before this, the comet will become very brilliant and visible in the Northern Hemisphere. The big question being debated by scientists is whether or not Comet ISON will survive its brush with our Sun? Is the comet on a one-way ride to its own funeral?

comet ison 2013

The real fun begins around October 1st as Comet ISON makes its closest approach to Mars. By this time, we on the good Earth should have a ring-side seat to watch it′s passage. While it should be visible to the naked eye, especially in areas with low light pollution, the best way to observe the comet will be with binoculars or a telescope set up for a wide-field view. The classic 7×50 ′night-glasses′ type of binoculars should do nicely. Serious stargazers might want to consider purchasing a 10×80 pair of binoculars as they will gather more light, ideal for seeing fuzzy, faint objects like a comet and it′s tail.

NASA will have a full armada of spacecraft keeping an eye on Comet ISON. In addition to the Hubble and Spitzer orbital telescopes, they will also task the Solar Dynamics Observatory, Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, the Swift Gama Ray telescope, the Messenger Mercury probe, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, the Deep Impact satellite, both the Lunar and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiters, along with the International Space Station, ground based telescopes and even special high-altitude balloons carrying instruments. Comet ISON could be the most watched object in our solar system over the next several months.

If Comet ISON 2013 survives its dangerous perihelion during its closest approach with our Sun, just 730,000 miles, on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, the comet will swing around and make its closest approach with Earth on about December 26, 2013. Comet ISON will then pass the Earth by just some 2.8 million miles, making it a very bright object in our night sky of our Northern Hemisphere. Not bad for a journey from the Oort Cloud which began some 10,000 years ago. So join along with the Hubble Space Telescope and all of the other means by NASA to watch what may be the Comet of the Century!

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