Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

3/18/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (

A major observing effort is planned for Comer ISON.

Sky watchers hopeful for a glimpse of Comet Pan-STARRS have been heartily disappointed, this author included. Failing to meet naked-eye expectations, except from sites with the darkest possible skies, the comet has been labeled a dud by many observers. So, with Comet ISON due up next, what justifies all the hype?

This is how Comet ISON could look this November, yet even brighter.

This is how Comet ISON could look this November, yet even brighter.

Article Highlights

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (

3/18/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Technology

Keywords: Comet ISON, close approach, great comet, viewing, visibility, Pan-STARRS

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - As Comet Pan-STARRS heads back out into space, growing fainter and harder to detect by the day, Comet ISON is on its way in. ISON is predicted to be the main event of the astronomical year and has been labeled the "comet of the century" despite the fact it is still yet to pass by Earth.

Why all the fuss?

Comet ISON is a new comet, a first-time visitor to the solar system which means it is pristine. It hasn't ever experienced heating and sublimation, that is melting of its surface layers. That means astronomers can examine its dust to determine its primordial composition. This will tell us more about how our solar system formed.

Still, this alone does not seem to justify the excitement. Comet ISON may fizzle out, or even break up as it approaches the Sun. We could be denied any show at all. Despite this fact, NASA and other agencies are marshalling a tremendous number of resources to view the comet.

Karl Battams, a scientist at the U.S. Naval Research Lab in Washington told, "Observing campaigns are planned by the SOHO, STEREO and SDO solar missions; by Spitzer, Chandra and Hubble space telescopes; and by the Deep Impact, JUNO, Mercury MESSENGER, Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter missions. Other missions at or on Mars are looking into observing ISON, as are a handful of other NASA Planetary missions."

This may just be the tip of the iceberg. A number of other international agencies undoubtedly have their observing campaigns planned, as well as millions of amateur astronomers who are prepared to view and photograph the comet as it passes through the inner solar system.

Even casual spectators may be in on the fun as Comet ISON is expected to be so bright in the sky, that it may rival the full moon in brightness for several days following its closest approach to the sun. That could make the comet visible in daylight.

The reason why such an outlay of capital and enthusiasm is occurring is because this is an exceedingly rare event. Decades, or even centuries may pass between such bright comets. The science that can be gleaned from their passage is great, revealing much about the primordial composition of the solar system, since comets are leftovers from the creation of the sun and planets.

Although ISON could fizzle out, break up, or otherwise disappoint, it is too great a chance for astronomers to let it go without making a maximum observing effort.

Comet ISON has a lot going for it, in terms of putting on a good show. The comet is large, at least two kilometers in size, and this is its first pass by the sun, meaning it has plenty of accumulated ice and dust to give off. That will make it appear bright.

Comet ISON is also expected to pass just 680,000 miles from the surface of the sun, which is practically touching in astronomical terms. This will heat the comet so much so that it will cast off much more material than most. Its large size however, means it should survive the close pass without breaking up.

The result is an exceptionally bright comet, that will shed much more dust and gas than normal. This means easier observing and a good look at the pristine, primordial dust that makes the comet's tail.

So what about you, the casual stargazer who has little interest in astronomy, should you be excited? Of course! Comet ISON is very likely to be a dazzling sight in the evening skies beginning in late November and through December. It will be perhaps the only time you will see such an object. Even if just for novelty's sake, it's worth keeping one eye on the heavens this fall.


Pope Francis calls for your 'Prayer and Action'

© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women:
That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lord’s invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.


More Technology

A NEW EARTH? Astronomers discover remarkably similar planet to our own Watch

Image of The Goldilocks zone, or habitable zone, is the belt around a star where temperatures are ideal for liquid water to pool on a planet's surface.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Astronomers have announced that they have found a planet that is remarkably similar to Earth. Called Kepler-186f, the planet 1.1 times the size of Earth orbiting a star - "only" 490 light years away. Kepler-186f is the first planet discovered with the right ... continue reading

EYES TO THE HEAVENS: Astronomers say there may be a 'new Saturn moon' Watch

Image of The disturbance in the edge of the ring is 20 percent brighter than its surroundings and about 750 miles long and six miles wide.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

All eyes are on the heavens as astronomers theorize that another moon for the ringed planet of Saturn may be on its way. If the heavenly body in the rings of Saturn is confirmed, it would make for the planet's 63rd moon. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading

IS THE SECOND COMING NIGH? Four blood moons this year all occur on Jewish holidays Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As climate change wreaks havoc worldwide, and relations between the U.S. and Russia reach a low point over Ukraine, some Christians say that the phenomenon of the "Blood moon" may mean that Christ's return is rapidly approaching. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading

Will Alibaba devour Facebook? China's massive Alibaba is coming to conquer the United States Watch

Image of Yahoo's dominance has since dwindled as Alibaba has since grown into a global powerhouse.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Ali Baba for those in the west usually means the storybook leader of a gang of fearless, 40 thieves. But this will soon change. A massive e-commerce site from China, Alibaba, with revenue larger than Amazon and eBay combined has decided to go public in the ... continue reading

Drone images reveal more about mysterious buried village in New Mexico Watch

Image of Drone images have captured fascinating new details about a buried Native American village in New Mexico.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Drone images have captured fascinating new details about a buried Native American village in New Mexico. Thermal images captured by the small drone allowed archaeologists to peer under the surface of the desert floor, revealing never-before-seen structures. LOS ... continue reading

New 'Star Wars' gun fires shells seven times the speed of sound through concrete -- 100 miles away Watch

Image of The rail gun will be mounted on high-speed vessel the USNS Millinocket for sea trials in 2016.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A futuristic lethal new weapon capable of firing a shell at seven times the speed of sound has since been successfully tested on land. Conjuring up images of iconic sci-fi villains as Darth Vader, researchers have called the new rail gun as being of 'Star Wars' ... continue reading

KETTLE CALLING THE POT BLACK? Internet search engines exhibiting double standards Watch

Image of An old cliche -- that bears repeating --

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Certain cliché sayings come to mind: The kettle calling the pot black, having one's cake and eating it too . Google, along with Facebook and Yahoo have come down hard on the Obama administration for information gathering - but NOW don't want their ... continue reading

Scientists discover massive asteroid hit Earth so hard that oceans evaporated Watch

Image of Earth was struck several times by massive asteroids billions of years ago.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Scientists from Stanford University say they have found evidence of another cataclysmic cosmic collision between Earth and another asteroid billions of years ago. This asteroid, they say, was so large it punched a hole in the Earth's crust and caused earthquakes around ... continue reading

Why is NASA rejecting definitive proof of life on Mars? Watch

Image of Curiosity recently captures this image that shows light on the ground on Mars. NASA thinks it's just a glint off rock or some other similar anomaly.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Curiosity rover has photographed what appears to be light emanating from the ground on Mars. UFO and alien life enthusiasts as well as conspiracy theorists have all claimed the light is evidence of life on the Red Planet. NASA however, is not so sure. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading

HANG ON TOTO! Astronomers calculate the speed of the Universe's expansion Watch

Image of Hang on! The universe is expanding at 1 percent per 44 million years, which is fast if you consider the size of the universe is at least 46 billion years in radius!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Hold on to your hat, Toto, we're about to leave Kansas. Astronomers say they have calculated the expansion rate of the universe and their discovery is very surprising. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Astronomers have long been interested in measuring the expansion ... continue reading

All Technology News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 10:34, 37-43
34 Then Peter addressed them, 'I now really ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
1 Alleluia! Give thanks to Yahweh for he is good, for ... Read More

Gospel, John 20:1-9
1 It was very early on the first day of the week and ... Read More

Reading 2, Colossians 3:1-4
1 Since you have been raised up to be with Christ, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 20th, 2014 Image

St. Marian
April 20: When St. Mamertinus was Abbot of the monastery which St. ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook

Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter