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Comet C/2012 S1 ISON, once billed as the Comet of the Century in expectation that it would be brighter than the full moon, is a good deal fainter than anticipated. At the beginning of November 2013 it shines at magnitude +9 in the constellation of Leo, a good 3-4 magnitudes fainter than initial predictions.
Comets are notoriously fickle objects. Predicting their brightness, especially many months in advance of their arrival into the inner solar system, is a bit of a mugs game. That all said, Comet ISON is still set to be a great naked eye comet by mid November 2013 as it dives in towards the Sun near the southeastern horizon.
Its morning appearance will be fleeting, perhaps being at naked eye visibility for 10-12 days at most before it is lost in the glare of the rising Sun. If it survives its trip around the back of the Sun it will hopefully emerge again in the evening sky near the southwestern horizon in early – mid December. It might even be brighter by this time!
Finding Comet ISON in the morning sky
In early November Comet ISON lurks in the constellation of Leo. From the UK it rises due east at around 2:30am, and is best seen with a telescope high up in the eastern sky in the hours before dawn. You’ll need a 150mm aperture telescope to see Comet ISON at its best in early November. Larger telescopes will reveal the comet’s short stubby tail and growing coma as the comet dives in towards the Sun.
By November 10th Comet ISON will be inside Earth’s orbit and should be visible (faintly) to the naked eye from a dark sky observing site. It will have moved into the constellation of Virgo by this time, and be rising later at 90-degrees due east on your compass at around 3:30am. You can then watch Comet ISON rise higher into the SE sky for two and a half hours before sunrise.
From November 13th Comet ISON moves inside the orbit of Venus. By the 15th it should be easily visible to the naked eye, even from moderately light polluted locations. Look to the ESE horizon at 5am/ 5:30am and you should see it rising just to the east of the bright blue-white star Spica in the constellation of Virgo. On the mornings of the 17th and 18th November it’ll make a nice pairing with Spica – an excellent opportunity for some spectacular photos!
November 20th sees Comet ISON midway between Spica and the planet Mercury in the morning sky. Look to the Southeast at around 6am for the best view ahead of the rising Sun. Each successive morning then sees the comet move closer to the Sun and further into the morning twilight. It will steadily grow brighter, but its brightness will be offset by the brightening sky from our perspective as the Sun rises.
With careful observation you might be able to track Comet ISON in the morning sky until November 24th or 25th. Its closest approach to the Sun is on November 28th, at which point it will be unobservable from UK skies. We then have to wait until the first few days of December to see if it survives its encounter with our Sun.
2 >> Select a telescope and check the availability indicator on the telescope information screen
3 >> Hire period is 7 or 14 nights, starting and ending Fridays. Nightly telescope hire is also available from our Southwest England hire bases
4 >> Make your booking request here, or phone Seb on 07884 001815
5 >> We will send you a booking confirmation. A delivery / pick up time is arranged for the start of the hire period, and a collection / drop-off time is fixed for the end of the hire period. These times are flexible.
6 >> You can pay for your telescope hire by cash on the day of collection or delivery. We also accept advance bank payments and paypal payments.
7 >> Everything you need to use the telescope is included. Our stargazing guides provide detailed information to help you navigate your way around the night sky.
8 >> Hope for clear skies!
We are located on the High Street (A5120) in Toddington close to Jct 12 of the M1. From the motorway head up the hill into Toddington. The road bears left at the Church. Continue along the road past the shops on your right. We are 100 yards or so up on the left.
SAT NAV – LU5 6BX
Dark Sky Telescope Hire
41 High Street
Tel. 07884 001815
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