.by Anura Guruge
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C/2012 S1 (ISON), the ‘2013 holiday’ comet that will be at its peak in November – December 2013, could end up being ‘the great comet of 2013‘, ‘the comet of the century‘ or even the ‘once in a civilization comet‘.
But, comets love to tease and beguile. So this is still a tad to early to get any hopes up. The comet having passed Jupiter’s orbital path around March 17, 2013 is 4.22 AU [392.3 million miles] away. If it successfully weathers its perihelion around the Sun on Thursday, November 28, 2013 [yes, Thanksgiving] , it will be an order of magnitude closer as it rushes by Earth at a 39.9 million mile separation on Boxing Day, 2013. There is a 20% chance that it might get fragmented or zapped as it is classed a ‘sungrazer‘ since it will skim by just 723,683 miles from the Sun’s surface.
Dave Eagle, in an e-mail this morning, gave me a heads up that C/2011 L4 (Pan-STARRS) is still visible (though I am not sure whether it is still naked eye).
Per Dave, and he would know, it will be close to ‘M31‘ — i.e., Andromeda. So, for us in New England, that would be low in the Northwest sky around 8 pm. I think trees will be the problem for us. From what I can see from my trust Sky Charts our best bet would be to start with The Pleiades (the easy to spot ‘Seven Sisters’/Subaru cluster). That should be close to West around 8 pm. Then start scanning North from there. With luck you should be able to spot the ‘W’, the upside down crown, of Cassiopeia. M31, and hence the comet, should be below Cassiopeia.
Last night we had a perfect viewing night, if not for the bitter cold wind. Tonight might be better. So, lets try and get out there and have a look. Binoculars might help.