As a kid, I vividly remember the awe and wonder surrounding Halley’s Comet which floated through the sky in 1986. I had posters, special commemorative Matchbox cars, and tons of magazines. The thought I would get to see a comet, not visible for another 75 years fueled that wonder.
Now, a new group of astronomers have discovered a comet that some say could be brighter than the moon! Here’s what ”Ison” looked like in September…barely noticeable! It’s still very far off, beyond the orbit of Jupiter. But by November 2013, it will be close enough to possibly become the brightest thing in the night sky!
Ison will pass 1.1 million miles from the sun’s surface. As it buzzes through, the comet’s chunks of rock and ice will be heated, reflecting the light from the sun. By late autumn, Ison will be viewable in the sky in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. There’s a chance Ison could break up and burn apart as it nears the sun, but if it doesn’t, it could illuminate our sky into January 2014.
If Ison wasn’t enough to spark your comet-interest, another comet called “2014 L4″ was discovered in 2011. It could light up the skies in March and April.
(sources: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/brighter-than-a-full-moon-the-biggest-star-of-2013-could-be-ison–the-comet-of-the-century-8431443.html http://earthsky.org/space/big-sun-diving-comet-ison-might-be-spectacular-in-2013)
This post was written by Eric Sorensen on December 28, 2012