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The Great Comet of 2013 - Comet ISON (C/2012 S1)

Updated on August 15, 2014

Comet ISON

Attention all stargazers! Make sure you mark your calenders for late 2013. This is when you should have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness the brightest comet to visit our area since 1680. Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) will not be a threat to impact the Earth or the Moon, but certainly will pass close enough to our planet to provide quite an awesome cosmic display.

Creative Commons image courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Miketsukunibito

halley's comet
halley's comet

Comet ISON - What to Expect

Comet ISON (technically known as C/2012 S1) was discovered by a pair of Russian astronomers in late September 2012. The discovery was made using a telescope at the International Scientific Optical Network (or ISON) located in southern Russia. Its orbit suggests that it has originated from the Oort Cloud, a group of comets that orbit the Sun from a vast distance.

So why is the comet causing all this excitement? Firstly, ISON will pass relatively close to the Sun (just under one million miles at its closest point) this close approach will cause much of the comet's ice to melt, releasing gas and dust and producing what could be a tail of enormous length, perhaps long enough to stretch half-way across the night sky.

Secondly, the comet's projected path will put it close enough to the Earth (Don't worry-no impact danger here folks) that we will get a magnificent display. Those in the Northern Hemisphere will get the prime seats to witness the show in the weeks before Christmas 2013, as the comet could glow many times brighter than a full Moon (although not nearly as large).

Another reason for the heightened enthusiasm surrounding ISON is its close resemblance to the Great Comet of 1680. That comet was visible during the day and had a stunningly long tail. These two comets have a very similar orbital path, and researchers speculate that the two comets could be "related' because they may have fragmented from the same body. If this is indeed the case, astronomers hope that the ISON show here on Earth could rival that of the 1680 spectacle.

Not to be a wet blanket here, but it should be noted that comets have a history of not living up to their lofty expectations. For example, 2011's Comet Elinin was a much anticipated comet that disintegrated completely before reaching us, therefore nothing is guaranteed here. One can only hope that ISON will be a spectacular celestial event that we can all remember for years and decades to come.

U. S. Government public domain photo courtesy

great comet of 1680
great comet of 1680

An artist's rendition of the Great Comet of 1680. The comet was so bright and possessed such a long tail that it caused terror and hysteria across much of Europe.

Public domain image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Comet ISON path
Comet ISON path

Although ISON is expected to be naked-eye viewable for about ten weeks, the peak time to witness the comet should be in the middle of December where ISON will be shining bright in the nighttime Northern sky.

Public domain photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Quick Comet Query

Do you plan on viewing ISON in late 2013?

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One Bright Comet?

Many astronomers predict that ISON will be so bright that it will be visible not only at night, but in broad daylight as well.

If you want to see Comet ISON's next visit after it's 2013 arrival, you had better really take care of yourself. The comet is not expected to return to our solar system for another 900,000 years.

Thoughts on ISON or This Lens? - Feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for visiting!

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      Hitman_4761 4 years ago

      This is my second comet

    • happy-birthday profile image

      Birthday Wishes 4 years ago from Here

      Nice lens! I hope that I can see the comet... Thanks for sharing!!!

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      TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

      Cool, I've seen two comets in the past and would love to see another.

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      ConvenientCalendar 4 years ago

      Very interesting! Enjoyed it!

    • Steve Dizmon profile image

      Steve Dizmon 5 years ago from Nashville, TN

      I am really looking forward to this Celestial Event. By the time the Comet does return I will probably be too old to enjoy it.

    • Loretta L profile image

      Loretta Livingstone 5 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      I've never seen a comet or meteors or a shooting star, because every time there are any due it seems to be overcast. I hope I'll be able to see this one. Thank you so much for visiting my lenses.

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      Vikki 5 years ago from US

      Exciting! I hope I remember this ;) *Blessed*

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Looking forward to seeing that. Just hope she holds together long enough for a good show in the night sky.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      You certainly are stirring up the excitement for ISON for those of us in the northern hemisphere here. It is so interesting that ISON could be related to the Great Comet of 1680...I guess out in space relationships last a long time. I sure hope ISON lives up to expectation, what a spectacle to look forward to for a year! Beautifully presented!

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      unnamedharald 5 years ago

      Very interesting. I remember the comet Kahoutec (in the seventies?) and what a big deal they made out of it, but it was a big fizzle. Hopefully this time the comet comes close to the hype!

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      getmoreinfo 5 years ago


    • BorisStewart profile image

      BorisStewart 5 years ago

      Wow! I LOVE Comets!

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      I look forward to seeing the comet. Fortunately I live in a place where there's no city lighting to obscure the stars.