UPDATE 11/29/13 – COMET ISON may have survived. Early reports of it’s death may have been pre-mature. It appears par of it reappeared after passing the sun. Read about it here.
Update 11/28/13- Comet ISON did not reappear from the far side of the sun. It appears to have been vaporized. Read: Comet ISON most likely destroyed by the Sun.
Comet ISON, which was touted as possibly being the “comet of the century” is finally here and peak viewing is expected to be with the next week or so. Thus far while impressive it has not reached comet of the century status, only time will tell if it will.The comet will reach its closest approach to the sun on Thanksgiving Day — Nov. 28, 2013 — skimming just 730,000 miles above the sun’s surface.
Cataloged as C/2012 S1, Comet ISON was first spotted 585 million miles away in September 2012. This is its very first trip around the sun, which means it is still made of pristine matter from the earliest days of the solar system’s formation, its top layers never having been lost by a trip near the sun.
The comet has been reported to have reached naked eye visibility on November 16th for darker viewing areas. The brightness intensified after and outburst last week but then quickly decreased. As of Nov 22 ISON is only about 25 degrees from the Sun, meaning it can only be observed in twilight. This does not make observing it easier.
11/27/13 Comet ISON moves ever closer to the sun in this movie from the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, captured in the early hours of Nov. 27, 2013. A coronal mass ejection explodes off the sun — it is unlikely to damage ISON even if they cross paths.
More recently comet PANSTARRs was naked eye visible as some of you may remember. This comet was easily visible during the twilight hours.
As you can see from this animation we are going to get an excellent view of comet ISON or the “Comet of the Century” as some have called it. Many thanks to Jason H. for creating this animation. The animation shows how comet ISON is predicted to pass out of the plane of the planets after its encounter with the Sun, (although from above it looks close to Earth, the side view however shows that it should be well above the plane of Earth’s orbit by the time ISON is on its way out. Recently there was some concern that it had broken into pieces but this turned out to be not the case, so there is still hope for a good show.