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By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

10/18/2013 (5 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Comet is on track according to revised predictions.

Last month, astronomers were worried that Comet ISON would fizzle out and disappoint. Speculation even suggested the would-be comet of the century might have broken into pieces. New observations suggest those worries are premature as the comet appears right on track to provide a rare show in December.

Comet ISON glows green in this recent image.

Comet ISON glows green in this recent image.

Article Highlights

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/18/2013 (5 months ago)

Published in Technology


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – Astronomers initially hyped Comet ISON as the "comet of the century" when it was first discovered in late September of 2012. Recently, those predictions were revised downward as the comet did not appear to be brightening as predicted.

Rumors began spreading through the community that the comet would be a dud, that possibly it had already broken up as it approached the Sun. Now following a fresh series of observations, the comet appears to be on track to put on quite a show.

It is perfectly intact and growing in brightness as expected. It will not be as bright as initially hoped, which is bright enough to be observed in daylight, but it will be plainly visible to the naked eye sometime in late November or early December.

Already, amateur astronomers with large telescopes say they can see the comet in the pre-dawn sky. Those armed with smaller telescopes and binoculars will be able to see the comet in early November. From mid-to-late November, possibly as early as Nov. 19, the comet will be visible to naked-eye observers.

The comet should continue to brighten until the first week of December. By that time, the comet will be glowing brightly in the evening sky, and climb higher into the northern sky until late December when it will fade from view.

There are some curious notes about comet ISON. The most interesting is that it glows green because of its composition. Filled with cyanogens gas and diatomic carbon, both poisonous to humans, the dust and gas glows green in the sunlight, similar in the way to a neon sign glows.

There is no danger from the gasses however, as they are remarkably diffuse. Anyone standing in the on the surface of the comet would not likely even ingest enough to suffer poisoning. Comets are not as they are depicted in 90s movies.

Another interesting fact about the comet is that it will pass within the Roche Limit, which is a tidal boundary that extends almost 7 million miles from the surface of the Sun. Any object that passes within that limit will be subjected to extreme tidal forces and may possibly break up. If so, then Comet ISON might not survive its trip around the Sun, less than a million miles above its surface.

Comet ISON is thought to be large enough to survive the heat of the Sun, although a good portion of it will literally melt away, causing it to shine even more brightly in the evening sky from Earth.

Whether or not it will survive the Sun's tidal forces is another question. So far, astronomers think it will, yet nobody knows what will really happen. Comets are notoriously unpredictable.

So far, the news for Comet ISON is good and you will catch your first glimpse in mid-November. Naked-eye comets are rare treats, so make sure you follow the news and make a point to step outside and catch a glimpse of green Comet ISON, you won't regret the spectacle.

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