A Comet Brighter Than The Moon

Back when I was hosting Inside Space on SciFi we did a program on Comet Hyakutake. I stood in an open field near an observatory near Binghamton, NY and let my jaw drop. C/2012 S1 ISON is forecast to be orders of magnitude brighter.

Some comets have become bright enough to be seen during daylight hours! It’s possible we’ll have that again.

Once you see a comet you never forget.

I’ve been working on tomorrow’s tech/science story. It’s about the recently discovered comet that’s predicted to be brighter than the Moon. For those scoring at home it’s officially Comet C/2012 S1 ISON.

As is the case with so many comet and asteroid discoveries nowadays it was spotted by an automatic sky survey. That’s a telescope that checks back at the same points in the sky to see if anything’s moved! Star positions relative to each other are constant night-to-night. Planets, comets and asteroids move separately. One is easy to pick out from the other.

I worry about this ‘brighter than the Moon’ prediction. Comets so often disappoint! This one is still out beyond Jupiter. No one benefits when the public is fed a false alarm.

We know little about C/2012 S1 ISON other than it originated in the Oort Cloud, an area around a light year from the Sun filled with comets.

We think the Oort Cloud exists. We really don’t know. No one’s ever seen it!

Back when I was hosting Inside Space on SciFi we did a program on Comet Hyakutake. I stood in an open field near Binghamton, NY for an observing party and let my jaw drop.

C/2012 S1 ISON is forecast to be orders of magnitude brighter.

Some comets have become bright enough to be seen during daylight hours! It’s possible we’ll have that again.

Once you see a comet you never forget.

5 thoughts on “A Comet Brighter Than The Moon”

  1. from http://forum.spore.com/jforum/posts/list/79001.page

    In the winter of 1680 skywatchers around the world observed a comet so close and so bright that it was visible in broad daylight for nearly a month.

    Late last month, an object following the same calculated orbital trajectory was sighted on its way into the inner solar system. The orbital similarities have left many to speculate that it may be the same object, or at least a related one.

    In late November of next year it will pass within a million miles of the sun and may become an incredibly bright comet.

    “May” being the key word though, as it is also possible that this object is not cometary in nature, and will fail to produce a vapor tail as it nears the sun.

    Only time will tell.

    On another site, the 1680 comet was reported to have a tail ~ 70 degrees of arc in the sky your closed covers ~ 10 degrees of arc co if this is the 1680 comet there’s a potential for quite a show.

  2. Maria Mitchell of Nantucket discovered a comet on Oct. 1, 1847 from her rooftop observatory there. It was named for her and she was awarded a medal by the King of Denmark. In Nantucket everyone seemed to be related and my grandmother often proudly mentioned that she was cousin to Miss Mitchell. I finally found a way to calculate the relationship and found that Grandmother was Maria Mitchell’s fourth cousin twice removed. Miss Mitchell became professor of astronomy at Vassar and received many honors both during her lifetime and posthumously.

    1. Thanks for that cool story. Until recently most comets were discovered by just plain folks. Telescopes limit your field-of-view. Many comet watchers use large binoculars.

  3. My dad took a photo of Hale-Bopp when it was at its brightest, and a year or so later got to meet Hale, who signed the photo. A scan of that was my desktop wallpaper for quite a while. 🙂

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