Comet ISON to soon pass by Earth

An image of Comet Ison taken recently as it heads for a solar rendezvous. 	Photo: Damien Peach
An image of Comet Ison taken recently as it heads for a solar rendezvous. Photo: Damien Peach

PEOPLE all across Australia have the opportunity of viewing what's called the "comet of the century", better known as Comet ISON, through their binoculars or telescopes as it passes Earth on its way around the Sun in just over a week's time.

Australian astronomer and writer for Australasian Science magazine, Dave Reneke, and members of his Mid Coast Astronomy Group will be setting telescopes up for the public to view this first time visitor to our solar system and every other town across Australia is expected to follow suit.

"Everyone should have the opportunity of catching this much heralded object as it makes its closest pass to the Earth on November 26," he said.

"It seems to be brightening each day, easily seen with the naked eye and even better in binoculars."

Like all comets, ISON is a big ball of frozen gases and water mixed with rock and dust.

This ball, the comet's nucleus, appears to be about four kilometres wide, as large, as comets go.

These bodies are leftover building blocks from the birth of the solar system.

Studying them helps scientists understand how Earth and the other planets took shape.

As ISON approaches the Sun, the heat vaporizes some of the comet's icy surface.

The Sun pushes some of this material outward to form a glowing tail kilometres or more long.

"It could turn out to be the biggest sky event in one hundred years, or the biggest fizzer, we just don't know what it's going to do until it passes us," Mr Reneke said.

Some are speculating the comet may break up from the gravity of the Sun others think we may be pummelled with a huge meteor shower.

It could even fall into the Sun.

Comet ISON is being observed by a tremendous variety of telescopes on Earth and beyond.

If ISON does disintegrate, it would be the best observed cosmic explosion in history.

"As it is low on the eastern horizon here in Australia, the best time to look for comet ISON is an hour and a half before local sunrise and a bit to the right of the red planet Mars," Mr Reneke said.

"For the best view head down to your local astronomy club.

As an extra treat, Jupiter and other celestial goodies are in the early morning sky as well."


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