Can Comet Ison be the “Comet of the Century”?

Danielle Freeman

According to writer Deborah Byrd of EarthSky, Comet Ison was discovered by astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok, and is expected to be bright enough to be seen with your own eyes sometime in the beginning of September. The comet will continue to brighten as it gets later in the year.

Nvate comet ison, vitali nevaski and artyom novichonok, solar wind

Credit: NASA

Comet Ison was first brought to the media in September 2012. Byrd stated that by Nov. 28, the comet will be 100 times closer to the sun and could possibly cause the “comet of the century” to break into pieces. However, no one is exactly sure what will happen because of how unpredictable comets are. There is definitely lots of uncertainty.

“Its skyrocket-looking tail is really a streamer of gas and dust bleeding off the icy nucleus, which is surrounded by a bright, star-like-looking coma,” according to the NASA website. “The pressure of the solar wind sweeps the material into a tail, like a breeze blowing a windsock.”

Month-by-Month Expectations and Predictions for Comet Ison

In July, Comet Ison was said to be behind the sun and wasn’t expected to return to earth’s sky until August. It was apparently possible to see the comet through a telescope by late August, according to Byrd.

Predictions expect that by late September or mid-October, the comet will sweep in front of constellation Leo, which is a group of stars forming a lion shape.

According to NASA, in late November, “its icy material will furiously sublimate and release torrents of dust as the surface erodes under the sun’s fierce heat, all as sun-monitoring satellites look on. Around this time, the comet may become bright enough to glimpse just by holding up a hand to block the sun’s glare.” It is by this time that the comet will be described as a sun gazing comet.

There have been several predictions from astronomers around the world. Recently, Comet Ison was spotted weeks earlier than expected. According to amateur imager Bruce Gary, the comet is two magnitudes fainter than it was predicted to be around this time of year.

“Comet Ison is currently at the distance from the sun where water ice sublimation would be expected to be taking over in the comet’s photometric development,” comet analyst John Bortle said. “The fact that the comet continues to appear as faint as it does implies that its intrinsic brightness, or absolute magnitude, is low and that the nucleus is probably small and relatively inactive.”

Observers and astronomers will continue to observe the comet as the year goes on and it becomes more visual to the light. Many people hope that Comet Ison won’t be another Kohoutek PR disaster. Comet Kohoutek was hyped to be the comet of the century years ago; the comet however didn’t meet the expectations from astronomers. It wasn’t as bright as expected, but it became a modest naked–eye object still not as appealing as the world hoped.

Only time will tell what Comet Ison will do. People are anticipating the comets’ arrival. Comet Ison will be talked about for years whether it meets the world’s expectations or not.

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