Thursday, November 21, 2013


Comet ISON is plunging toward the sun at 140,000 mph (62 km/s). You can almost feel the velocity in this image taken on the morning of Nov. 20th by astronomers using the 0.4 meter telescope at the Observatorio de la Hita in La Puebla de Almoradiel, Toledo, Spain:

"The comet looked very bright," report the observing team. "The tail was not as well defined today because of the proximity of morning twilight...but still splendid!!"

The comet is brightening rapidly as it approaches the sun. Experienced observers put ISON's rising magnitude near +4.0, well above the threshold of naked-eye visibility. The problem is, the glare of the sun is brightening even faster. Amateur photography of the comet will be possible for a few more days and, soon, only NASA's fleet of solar observatories will be able to track the sundiver.

Observationally speaking, the next big event in the timeline of Comet ISON's journey comes on Nov. 21st when the comet enters the field of view of NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft. The Heliospheric Imager on STEREO-A will pick up the comet just as Earth-bound telescopes begin to lose it. In the days that follow, STEREO-B, SOHO and the Solar Dynamics Observatory will join the hunt, providing continuous views of Comet ISON all the way to perihelion (closest approach to the sun) on Nov. 28th. Stay tuned!
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