Will Comet ISON put on a show from the southern hemisphere near the end of 2013?

Will Comet ISON put on a show from the southern hemisphere near the end of 2013?

Published by Nick Lomb on October 9, 2012 150 Comments

Blocking the Sun_Nick Lomb

Blocking out the Sun with a post. Photo Nick Lomb

Note added 15 October 2013: please also see more recent post on viewing possibilities.

There is a lot of interest in a newly discovered comet called Comet ISON. In late November 2013 this comet will pass very close to the Sun and may then be bright enough to be seen in the daytime. A few weeks later the comet’s outward trajectory will bring it to just 0.4 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. This visit from Comet ISON has been extensively discussed by commentators from the northern hemisphere, but what will we see from Australia?

The comet was discovered on 24 September by two amateur astronomers in Belarus and Russia. As it took them a day to confirm that the object was a comet, the organisation International Scientific Optical Network with which they are associated was credited with the discovery. For more of the story see the Sky & Telescope article.

Newtons diagram of the path of comet 1680 from the Principia

Newton’s drawing of the path of the bright comet seen in 1680 is included in his famous Principia. Here D represents the Sun and other letters indicate the observed position of the comet at various dates. This image is from an 1871 reprint of the last edition of the Principia on archive.org

The path of comet ISON is believed to be very similar to that of the comet of 1680. This bright comet had an important role in the history of science for Isaac Newton carefully plotted its path and established that it was a parabola as required under his Universal Law of Gravitation. Newton’s success in establishing the path of this comet inspired Edmond Halley to look at the paths of past comets and so led to the discovery of Halley’s Comet.

Comet ISON orbit from JPL Small Bodies Browser_near perihelionA

The path of Comet ISON in the inner solar system is shown in orange when above the plane of the ecliptic and in yellow below. The position of the comet is shown a day after its closest approach to the Sun. Courtesy JPL

Comet ISON will pass just 1.2 million km from the Sun on 29 November 2013 (Australian time). From Earth it will be about one degree from the Sun. At that time it may appear sufficiently bright to be visible in daytime, however, comets are notoriously fickle and this one may not perform as expected. There will be updates on this blog as the date approaches. It will probably be worth trying to look in the vicinity of the Sun a day or two before closest approach and for a few days after.

NOTE that it is always dangerous to look directly at the Sun. Do not use telescopes or binoculars to search for the comet, just your unaided eyes and block the Sun with a post or other convenient object. Take extreme care!

In the week or two before closest approach to the Sun or perihelion the comet will be visible low in the east before sunrise. It should be getting brighter, but also closer to the horizon each morning. If the comet grows a visible tail, it should be pointing upwards, away from the rising Sun.

After perihelion as the comet moves towards the Earth we will not be able to get much of a look from the southern hemisphere. It will be neither an evening nor a morning object for in the evenings the comet will set before the Sun and in the mornings it will rise with the Sun.

Assuming the comet does not fade away like some comets of the past, for those of us in the southern hemisphere the best chance to see Comet ISON will be from mid to late November 2013 in the mornings before sunrise and in the daytime about the date of perihelion on 29 November 2013. As indicated above, watch this blog for updates and take extreme care when looking in the direction of the Sun.

Note added 15 October 2013: please also see more recent post on viewing possibilities.

Leave a Reply

150 Responses to “Will Comet ISON put on a show from the southern hemisphere near the end of 2013?”

  1. February 28, 2014 at 5:43 pm, Ibrahim Mondia said:

    Good work

    Reply

  2. December 12, 2013 at 9:00 pm, Phill said:

    Hey just adding in I also looked at that same bright light. It’s huge and extremely bright. I can’t recall ever seeing Venus vibrant and glowing. My father said he had not seen it like that before either. It’s weird.im on your side what us with it.

    Reply

    • December 13, 2013 at 11:33 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Phill. Yet it is Venus and it has been this bright before, for example, in late April 2012 and in December 2010. For a discussion on why Venus appears so bright at present, see this blog post.

      Reply

  3. December 08, 2013 at 8:22 am, Raine said:

    What am I looking at in the night sky which is a brilliant light in the south west skies. I thought it was Ison, but apparently it’s not. Surely it’s not Venus?
    I am not an avid sky watcher, but do like to look at the stars in the night from my home, and particularly show my visitors who sometimes do not have that option in their country.
    Hate to have to admit to my facebook I am in error, but need to know what I am looking at. Thanks. Raine

    Reply

  4. December 07, 2013 at 10:23 pm, Raine said:

    What am I looking at toward the south west which is so bright that it even shines behind a cloud. I thought it was Ison????
    I live in the western suburbs by the sea but I am looking towards the south west and the “comet” is very bright.
    I am trying to convince family I have another notch in my cosmic belt.
    Thanks stargazers if you can enlighten me.
    Raine

    Reply

    • December 09, 2013 at 11:14 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Raine. You are looking at the planet Venus. See this blog post.

      Reply

    • December 09, 2013 at 7:10 pm, Margy Duke said:

      It’s Venus!

      Reply

  5. December 04, 2013 at 10:08 pm, Jade said:

    We observed an incredibly bright comet heading south at around 7:45pm tonight. We watched it for 10 to 15 minutes till it disappeared over the horizon. It was still daylight with the setting sun so bright only a couple of photos turned out ok. We are in Grafton NSW. I would guess it was a comet cause it was not burning up. How do I send you a photo? It was amazing!

    Reply

    • December 05, 2013 at 10:11 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Jade. You do not describe what you thought was “an incredibly bright comet”, but as it was during daylight I would say that it was a small cloud or an aircraft vapour trail backlit by the Sun. See the blog post UFO over Sydney? No it’s just a vapour trail.

      Reply

  6. December 03, 2013 at 11:12 pm, annie said:

    Hi can i see this comet now from observetory? What is the best time to see this comet?

    Reply

    • December 04, 2013 at 11:35 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Annie. I am afraid it is too late to see Comet ISON as it disintegrated during its close approach to the Sun at the end of November 2013. But, never mind, there is still plenty to see in the evening sky such as the planets Venus and Jupiter, the Moon and the bright stars of the constellation of Orion.

      Reply

  7. November 30, 2013 at 8:27 pm, mark said:

    they say Ison is still alive is this true

    Reply

    • December 01, 2013 at 4:19 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Mark. Yes, some parts of the comet seem to have survived the close approach to the Sun though as yet no one knows if there will be anything to see in the northern hemisphere sky over the next few nights. Whatever happens though it can no longer be seen from the southern hemisphere.

      Reply

  8. November 30, 2013 at 9:51 am, Rina said:

    On the 29th of november,I observed comet Ison disintegrate before my own naked eyes.So, what is the fuss is all about? The comet was moving fast and then it started to disintegrate.So, we might see the remnant of it or may be it completely disintegrated.Astronomy with all its advance technology cannot tell what exactly happened to Ison.They have to wait a few more days before they can say what happened to ison.May be Ison has completely disintegrated and swallowed by the heat of the sun.And there,the life of this inanimate object ended on the 29th november 13 and I did witnessed it.

    Reply

    • December 01, 2013 at 4:37 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Rina. To astronomers studying the Sun Comet ISON has been fascinating as it probed a region to which we cannot send spacecraft for it is too close to the Sun. Once all the data are analysed over the next few weeks and months scientists may know more about temperatures, magnetic fields and the solar wind in the inner parts of the Sun’s atmosphere.

      Reply

    • December 01, 2013 at 4:46 pm, Christine Rampton said:

      Thanks Nick for the update on Ison, good to know, I can tell my mate who’s a bit of a fruitloop to go stick his head bck in the sand lol but in having said that are there any other comets out there heading our way? Cheers Christine

      Reply

      • December 02, 2013 at 10:40 am, Nick Lomb said:

        Hello Christine. As far as we know there are no potentially bright comets approaching the Sun, but one could be discovered at any time.

        Reply

  9. November 30, 2013 at 9:39 am, WilloW said:

    Hello;

    The post stated

    “Comet ISON will be from mid to late November 2013 in the mornings before sunrise and in the daytime about the date of perihelion on 29 November 2013. As indicated above, watch this blog for updates and take extreme care when looking in the direction of the Sun”

    Yet, in the comments section it is stated that the comet will not be viewable from the Southern Hemisphere.

    Can you please tell us if we can see it or not – I live in Tasmania ?

    Thank you, WilloW

    Reply

    • December 01, 2013 at 4:23 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello WilloW. Some parts of the comet seem to have survived the close approach to the Sun though as yet no one knows if there will be anything left to see in the northern hemisphere sky over the next few nights. Whatever happens though it can no longer be seen from the southern hemisphere including Tasmania.

      Reply

      • December 01, 2013 at 4:58 pm, WilloW said:

        Thanks Nick.

        As an amateur I always find it difficult determining whether people are referring to observations in the southern, northern or both hemispheres. The American-based sites seem to forget there’s a hemisphere other than there own :) Cheers…

        Reply

  10. November 29, 2013 at 7:50 pm, Jacques said:

    Hi Nick,
    I’m in central South Africa…will I be able to se comet ISON?

    Reply

    • December 01, 2013 at 4:24 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Jacques. Some parts of the comet seem to have survived the close approach to the Sun though as yet no one knows if there will be anything left to see in the northern hemisphere sky over the next few nights. Whatever happens though it can no longer be seen from the southern hemisphere including South Africa.

      Reply

  11. November 29, 2013 at 5:17 pm, PLT123 said:

    Sadly I live in the country of NSW Australia and today there has been thunderstorms so sadly I can’t see it through the clouds. I was so looking forward to ISON, I’m 12 years old and my dream is to become an astronomer so I’m quite disappointed to not be able to see it as I have told everybody in my class about it. :(

    Reply

    • December 01, 2013 at 4:30 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello PLT123. Over the last few weeks Comet ISON has been hard to see from Australia and now that it has passes the Sun it can only be seen, if at all, from the northern hemisphere. Don’t worry though we live in fortunate times when we can follow the comet through images from spacecraft and from serious amateur astronomers over the internet – keep an eye on the spaceweather website.

      Reply

  12. November 29, 2013 at 3:56 pm, Mark said:

    I guess the answer now, is no.

    Reply

    • November 29, 2013 at 11:20 pm, maheshwaran said:

      yes in god grace we could see

      Reply

  13. November 29, 2013 at 12:00 am, Pam said:

    We saw what looked like a fireball or meteor today with a long tail also and it lasted for around 30 mins where it appeared to burn up.

    Reply

    • November 29, 2013 at 11:20 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Pam. You do not give any details about time, direction, location or a description so I cannot even take a guess at what you saw. However, whatever you saw was not fireball or meteor as these can only be seen for a few seconds.

      Reply

  14. November 28, 2013 at 11:09 pm, Andrew Dumbleton said:

    Will I b able to see ison b4 sunrise on November 29 from goulburn NSW

    Reply

    • November 29, 2013 at 11:14 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Andrew. No you could not have seen the comet as it was too close to the Sun. Observations could only be made today by spacecraft and these observations suggest that the comet has largely but not completely disintegrated.

      Reply

  15. November 28, 2013 at 9:22 pm, Tony staunton said:

    I don’t know where u get visible in the east.
    What appears to be a comet is visible due west
    About 11 pm has been in about same spot for
    Last 2 nights looks like a jumbo jet with all
    Landing lights on but nit moving .

    Reply

    • November 29, 2013 at 11:32 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Tony. You are looking at the planet Venus that has been setting in the west at about 11 pm or a little later since late October.

      Reply

  16. November 28, 2013 at 5:06 pm, Wendy Westereller said:

    I live in Rockhampton and also saw the light arund 8.15 going north to south quickly across the sky. It did look like a falling star but shot straight across the sky southward and had a as stated below had distinctive tail of smaller lights trailing behind.

    Reply

    • November 28, 2013 at 5:16 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Thanks for your reports Amanda, Mandy and Wendy. What you saw seems to have been a bright fireball – a piece of rock from space hitting the Earth’s atmosphere and burning up. There is another report by Greg from the Noosa hinterland on the Lights in the Sky page. Part of the rock may well have survived, but unless it hit someone’s head, car or house we are unlikely to find out.

      Reply

  17. November 28, 2013 at 12:50 pm, Amanda said:

    Hi
    I live at Emu Park on the coast in Central Queensland. At about 8.15pm last night I saw a very bright – what I thought may have been a falling star – but it travelled across the whole sky from left to right (north to south), there was a large bright ‘ball’ and it had a distict ‘tail’. It was spectacular! And much larger than a falling star. If it was the comet, what a privellige to see it!

    Reply

    • November 28, 2013 at 1:04 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Amanda. I suspect that you saw the International Space Station that went right over Emu Park yesterday evening and would have been bright and noticeable. The pass by the ISS on 27 November 2013 was from 7:28 pm to 7:33 pm and it travelled from south-west to the north-east.

      Reply

      • November 28, 2013 at 3:30 pm, Amanda said:

        > Hi Nick, it was too big to be the ISS and was travelling from North to South – West. It was extremely bright and had a long tail of light behind it. I’ve seen the ISS travel past previously and this was nothing like I’ve seen before. Whatever it was it was a unique spectical!

        Reply

        • November 28, 2013 at 4:23 pm, Mnady said:

          > My husband and i saw it too, we could not believe our eyes

          Reply

  18. November 28, 2013 at 10:02 am, sulina said:

    can some one pls tell me when can the comet be visible from W.A.? i live in Geraldton. thank u

    Reply

    • November 28, 2013 at 12:05 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello sulina. Comet ISON is now too near to the Sun to be seen from Earth and afterwards, if it survives, it will only be a northern hemisphere object. You can still follow the comet using spacecraft images on the Spaceweather website.

      Reply

  19. November 28, 2013 at 8:00 am, Ina said:

    hi, we are in coolum beach and we saw yesterday night at 7:30 a big light with a big long fail likes flashes in the sky. he seems to be very close to us. his way was straight on from north to south. we saw him 5 – 10 sec. ?

    Reply

  20. November 27, 2013 at 11:58 pm, Tamantha said:

    Hi I am on the central east coast of Australia and saw a marvelous light show tonight between 7:30 and 8 (estimated times as I didn’t have a watch) and was wondering if you could confirm that this was comet Ison?

    Reply

    • November 28, 2013 at 7:45 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Tamantha. You do not give a direction, but I think that you were looking at the planet Venus which is very spectacular at the moment in the western sky. Comet ISON is in the morning sky and very hard to see.

      Reply

      • November 29, 2013 at 7:11 pm, Tamantha said:

        Thank you for the reply. It travelled with speed from north to south and smaller parts seemed to be breaking off as it passed. Very bright.>

        Reply

  21. November 27, 2013 at 9:21 pm, Ina said:

    hello nick,
    we have seen the comet now over coolum beach. he had a big faul with flashes. it wars amazing. we saw him 3 to 5 seconds and he seems very close to the earth.
    i have never seen a something like this in the nightsky.
    lovely greats
    ina

    Reply

    • November 28, 2013 at 7:51 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Ina. Thanks for your report, but Comet ISON has been visible in the morning sky low in the east. What you saw sounds like a bright meteor, a tiny rock from space burning up in the atmosphere. You were fortunate to see it.

      Reply

  22. November 27, 2013 at 9:59 am, Christine said:

    Hello Nick, I have been told there may be some problems when the comet comes close to the sun or passes us, like a metor shower or the power grid will go down from electronic pulse or tidal surges, is this likely to happen or are they just fruitloops?

    Reply

    • November 27, 2013 at 11:13 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Christine. Comet ISON will have no effect on Earth except possibly some unnoticeable fine comet dust in mid January. Whenever an object is in the news it brings out the professional doomsayers trying to use it to create panic for the fun of it. Ignore them.

      Reply

      • November 27, 2013 at 11:31 am, Christine Rampton said:

        Thanku Nick, it’s gd to know we’ll all see christmas :)>

        Reply

  23. November 26, 2013 at 10:38 pm, chantel said:

    Hello,
    I was wondering would I be able to see comet ison with a telescope as I live in maitland NSW Australia and sad I may of missed it. where would I look if I could see it with the telescope and what time???

    Thanks

    Reply

    • November 27, 2013 at 11:16 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Chantel. Comet ISON is too close to the Sun to be seen and after it passes the Sun, if it survives, it will only be visible in the northern hemisphere. You can still share in the excitement though by following the comet with spacecraft images on the Spaceweather website.

      Reply

  24. November 26, 2013 at 10:27 pm, ammie said:

    Hi,

    I’m in Brisbane and this evening i heard a report on channel 7 saying that ISON will be visible to see at 3:30am…. is this correct? I have read all comments on this blog and you say it’s too close to the sun?which one is correct .

    Thank you.

    Reply

    • November 27, 2013 at 11:21 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello ammie. If you can find a spot away from city lights and with a clear view of the eastern horizon (maybe over the ocean) just before dawn there is a very tiny chance that you may see the comet. By now the comet is so close to the Sun that it is most unlikely to be visible. I would not bother.

      Reply

  25. November 26, 2013 at 8:40 pm, Master Of The Universe said:

    Hello, I have watched a documentary recently about coment ISON. When would the best time to see it? (I live in Melboure Victoria) My family is fascinated by it and are really excited to see it

    Kind regards, Master Of The Universe

    Reply

    • November 27, 2013 at 12:15 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Master of the Universe. If you ensure that the comet survives its close encounter with the Sun and you transport yourself to the northern hemisphere you maybe able to see it in early December. Otherwise it is too late to see it directly from Melbourne. However, you can still take part in the excitement by viewing spacecraft images and videos on the Spaceweather website.

      Reply

  26. November 26, 2013 at 7:48 pm, ant said:

    As comet ison pass around the sun, could a burst of solar wind nock it off corse ?

    Reply

    • November 27, 2013 at 11:27 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello ant. Scientists are actually hoping that the comet will be hit by a coronal mass ejection (a very large burst of solar wind) when it is close to the Sun so that they can watch what happens. The CME will not knock the comet off course, but it may help to break it apart.

      Reply

  27. November 26, 2013 at 7:20 pm, John said:

    The path of a satellite of a body is an ellipse. A comet as a satellite of the sun will also follow an ellipse. If it doesn’t it will not return. At school you learn that cannon balls fired from the ground follow a parabola. This is because the flight distances involved are so small the ground can be regarded as flat. Once curvature can no longer be ignored the path no longer approximates a parabola.

    Reply

    • November 27, 2013 at 11:51 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello John. A parabola is just the extreme case of an elongated ellipse. If an object like Comet ISON approaches the Sun with sufficient energy its path is indeed a parabola and on its return it will just keep moving away from the Sun and the planets of the inner solar system. Of course, if it disintegrates during its close approach to the Sun there may not be anything left of it to keep going.

      Reply

      • November 27, 2013 at 5:19 pm, John said:

        > I know in the extreme case it is a parabola but for it to ever come back it must be an ellipse from which you can calculate when it might come back and whether it has been seen before. A parabolic path implies a non-satellite where it comes and goes once only.
        The main reason I made the original post is that there is a theory being proposed to explain gravity by having the universe uniformly expanding (both space and matter). The proponent maintains that orbits particularly the paths of anything fired from earth are always parabolic because this was drummed into us at school (the cannon calculation) where we assume a flat earth (which he ignores). By stating the comet path is a parabola without indicating this is approximate for an elongated ellipse you give this idiot further evidence for his inane hypothesis.

        Reply

  28. November 26, 2013 at 9:05 am, oli said:

    hi, im in sydney, can you please confirm when will be the best time to see comet ison? is it visible now with the naked eye or do we wait until friday morning ? and whereabouts should i be looking . and should i be away from city lights if possible? ie, like a beach perhaps.

    Reply

    • November 26, 2013 at 10:12 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello oli. By now Comet ISON is too close to the Sun to be seen by eye and afterwards if it survives it will be purely a northern hemisphere object. You can instead follow the progress of Comet ISON on spacecraft images and movies – see the Spaceweather.com website.

      Reply

  29. November 26, 2013 at 6:26 am, joshstar said:

    Hi there will this be able to be viewed from the gold coast? and what direction should i be looking? (providing it survives around the sun) im 30 and since a child have always wanted to see a comet!!!!!!
    thanks :)

    Reply

    • November 26, 2013 at 10:11 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello joshstar. By now Comet ISON is too close to the Sun to be seen by eye and afterwards if it survives it will be purely a northern hemisphere object. You can instead follow the progress of Comet ISON on spacecraft images and movies – see the Spaceweather.com website.

      Reply

  30. November 26, 2013 at 4:12 am, BELINDA said:

    will it be possible for me to see this comet in Ghana? And at what time am i likely to have a great view?

    Reply

    • November 26, 2013 at 10:16 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Belinda. Comet ISON is now probably too close to the Sun to be seen. In early December, if it survives passing the Sun, from Ghana you may have a chance to see it from a dark spot away from bright lights. Look low in the east just before dawn, that is, while it is still dark before the Sun rises. Every morning it will be a little fainter, a little higher in the sky and a little further to the north.

      Reply

  31. November 26, 2013 at 12:47 am, Chris said:

    Hi mate,

    I know you have reiterated where to find it, however from reading some posts, it appears ISON is less visable from Aus with each passing day. My question is, what day will it be best spotted, thoughts if it will survive and if it does, will it be better seen in Dec.

    Cheers,

    Chris.

    Reply

    • November 26, 2013 at 10:11 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Chris. By now Comet ISON is too close to the Sun to be seen by eye and afterwards if it survives it will be purely a northern hemisphere object. You can instead follow the progress of Comet ISON on spacecraft images and movies – see the Spaceweather.com website.

      Reply

      • November 26, 2013 at 12:32 pm, Chris said:

        That’s for your time.

        Chris.>

        Reply

  32. November 25, 2013 at 11:37 pm, Shaun Leech said:

    Hi All,

    Im Living in Perth WA, is it now to late to see Ison??
    Im not very knowledgeable in these things but still very interested, any help would be appreciated , was out in the back yard yesterday and saw a couple of shooting stars? they seemed quite low in the sky, would this have been any Ison debris??

    Reply

    • November 26, 2013 at 10:10 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Shaun. By now Comet ISON is too close to the Sun to be seen by eye and afterwards if it survives it will be purely a northern hemisphere object. You can instead follow the progress of Comet ISON on spacecraft images and movies – see the Spaceweather.com website.

      Reply

  33. November 24, 2013 at 9:29 am, Ian Mac said:

    I am In Sharm el Sheikh Egypt from 26th November to 15th December. Will I see comet Ison?

    Reply

    • November 25, 2013 at 3:20 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Ian. Comet ISON is now probably too close to the Sun to be seen. In early December if it survives passing the Sun you should have a good chance to see it from a dark spot. Look low in the east just before dawn, that is while it is still dark before the Sun rises. Every morning it will be a little fainter, a little higher in the sky and a little further to the north. The diagram in this Sky & Telescope article should help to find it.

      Reply

  34. November 23, 2013 at 11:39 pm, Shalin Vora said:

    Greetings from Nairobi, kenya, nick,

    Please advise whether we would be able to see comet ison from Nbi and what time and direction to look at.

    Thank you

    Shalin

    Reply

    • November 25, 2013 at 3:05 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Shalin. Comet ISON is now probably too close to the Sun to be seen. In early December if it survives passing the Sun you may have a chance to see it from a dark spot away from the lights of Nairobi. Look low in the east just before dawn, that is while it is still dark before the Sun rises. Every morning it will be a little fainter, a little higher in the sky and a little further to the north.

      Reply

  35. November 22, 2013 at 10:28 pm, Shaun said:

    Hi there.Im Shaun and I live in South Africa.I wud love to see the comet ISON.Im in Kommetjie Western Cape.Plz let me know how and when Is the best time for me to see ISON.

    Best Regaurds

    Shaun

    Reply

    • November 25, 2013 at 3:13 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Shaun. Comet ISON is now likely to be too close to the Sun to be seen before it passes the Sun on 28 November. After it passes the Sun, even if it survives those of us in the Southern Hemisphere will not be able to see it. Instead follow it using spacecraft views such as those on the Spaceweather website.

      Reply

  36. November 21, 2013 at 12:17 pm, mike said:

    Its nov 20, 2013 at 8:15 when is the best time i can see comet ison east tennessee 37683 mountain city

    Reply

    • November 21, 2013 at 2:32 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Mike. You need to look just before dawn which I think is about 6:00 am for you. You need a viewing spot from where you can see the south-east horizon as the comet is low in the south-east. It is just to the right and above of the planet Mercury. A pair of binoculars maybe necessary.

      Reply

  37. November 20, 2013 at 10:44 pm, Edy said:

    Hi,

    I just saw a comet or a meteor. ( I am not sure which one is which ) in Perth tonight 20th Nov 2013 at about 19:30 on northern sky.
    It was quite bright, the brightest I’ve ever seen so far. It splitted into 2 parts, the one behind die off first, then the front part went on for another few centimeters ( based on my eyes scale ).

    Could it be ISON?

    regards,

    Reply

    • November 21, 2013 at 11:21 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Edy. Thanks for your report. What you saw was a meteor – a small rock fragment hitting the atmosphere and burning up 40 or more kilometres above the ground. Comets are much larger objects often described as dirty snowballs that release dust and gas as they approach the Sun. Astronomers have been tracking Comet ISON like many other comets for many months.

      Reply

      • November 21, 2013 at 12:11 pm, Edy said:

        Thanks Nick for your explanation.

        Reply

  38. November 19, 2013 at 9:02 pm, webding said:

    Do you remember last February when brilliant NASA had it’s eyes over the American skies waiting to see the harmless flash of a meteor when – KHABLAAAAHM!!! All hell broke loose over Chelyabinsk in Russia?? I dare say you don’t know what’s gonna happen with this comet. NASA doesn’t know. You don’t know. No one does.

    Reply

  39. November 19, 2013 at 8:49 pm, Margy Duke said:

    Hi all…there is a fabulous app called Sky Guide…it tracks everything in the night and day sky live and I’ve been tracking Ison with this app…which shows exactly she’s it is at any given time,

    Reply

  40. November 18, 2013 at 8:51 pm, Shane Phillips said:

    hello i live in qld australia what time would be the best to see the comet

    Reply

    • November 19, 2013 at 11:29 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Shane. You need to look just before dawn very low in the east near the horizon. Please see the updated post.

      Reply

  41. November 17, 2013 at 10:45 pm, Nader said:

    Hello I live in Dubai and wonder at what time should I watch ISON. It is a phenomena and I don’t want to miss it. It would be a good idea if one of the geek astronomers can do a schedule of where and when it can be watched across all countries…

    But I am interested at least in when to see it in Dubai and would it still be towards the East?

    Thanks

    Reply

    • November 18, 2013 at 12:03 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Nader. You still need to look before dawn and towards the east. however, you are more fortunate than we are in Australia as the comet is a little higher in the sky. Look close to the horizon just to the right or south of east, above the planet Mercury and below the star Spica preferably with binoculars.

      Reply

  42. November 17, 2013 at 9:28 pm, jono said:

    Will the comet be visible with the naked eye?

    Reply

    • November 18, 2013 at 11:39 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello jono. The comet is now visible to the unaided eye from a dark site away from city lights. However, at present the Moon is brightening the sky and the comet is starting to be very close to the horizon at dawn. If you can find a dark spot with an unobstructed view of the eastern horizon you may have a chance to see it later in the week as the Moon starts to wane.

      Reply

  43. November 17, 2013 at 10:54 am, laura wilson said:

    Hello
    I’m living on the north west coast of Tasmania Devonport to be exact, could you tell me the best time to see the comet and in what direction to look for it. many thanks
    Laura

    Reply

    • November 17, 2013 at 12:51 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Laura. To try to see Comet ISON you need to look just before dawn from a spot with a view of the eastern horizon. Please see the updated version of this blog post for a diagram of where to look.

      Reply

  44. November 16, 2013 at 8:35 am, Gautham said:

    Hello,
    I live in Victoria, Australia and I was just wondering when the best time for me to see the comet was. I figured that it would better for me to see it before it passed the sun.
    Thankyou

    Reply

    • November 17, 2013 at 12:49 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Gautham. To try to see Comet ISON you need to look just before dawn (~4:50 am in Melbourne currently) from a spot with a view of the eastern horizon. Please see the updated version of this blog post for a diagram of where to look.

      Reply

  45. November 15, 2013 at 10:31 am, Johan Vorster said:

    Interesting.
    Youtube is full of doomsday predictions about earth moving through the tail/debris field (+-16 days> 1-16 Dec 2013 ) and a shower of meteorites/asteroids hitting earth and destroying cities – USAs FEMA preparing body bags, bunkers etc etc. refer Russia 15 Feb 2013 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpmXyJrs7iU
    Is this overcooked? What is the truth?
    What are the dates we should be watching? Should we alter our behaviour (incl international flights)?
    Thanks
    JV

    Reply

    • November 15, 2013 at 12:38 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Johan. There are no risks whatever to us on Earth from Comet ISON. Doomsayers regularly latch onto whatever in the news and they are always wrong in their fantasies. There is a prediction of microdust from the comet reaching us in early January 2014, but that will not be noticeable and even scientists will have trouble establishing if it is happening or not. Watching the comet is tricky from the southern hemisphere as it is getting close to the horizon in the mornings. For details see the updated version of the Comet ISON blogpost.

      Reply

  46. November 09, 2013 at 8:46 pm, James Wales said:

    I’m in east Tennessee, zip code 37876. Should I also look east before dawn?

    Reply

    • November 10, 2013 at 5:34 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello James. Yes, you should look also in the east, but for you things are a little easier as the comet is higher in the sky than in the southern hemisphere and you may have a chance of seeing the comet in December as well. For a November finding chart see the article from Observing at Skyhound. Note that 17/18 November the comet will be near the bright star Spica, which may make it easier to find in the sky.

      Reply

  47. October 31, 2013 at 10:03 am, comet fan said:

    Certainly sounds like its going to perform after reading lots of comments on the tail and its current trajectory. Not only has the tail already has its full glow before reaching the sun but it has already started to show its chemical composition. Cant wait to see this. I’m heading for Spain or Italy maybe Egypt in December. Because i won’t be able to see the thing from Columbia. In the Southern Parts. About twenty of us are going north just to see comet Ison. Its a comet Ison party.

    Reply

    • October 31, 2013 at 11:02 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello comet fan. Good luck in viewing Comet ISON and let us know how you get on.

      Reply

  48. October 28, 2013 at 6:09 pm, Ian said:

    I’ve just finished watching an amazing documentry called – The Electric Comet. 1 1/2 hrs of upto date comet science, with incredible close up footage of every comet we’ve been visited by for the last 30yrs, including the deep impact study done in 2005. So far o haven’t seen any close ups like these of comet Ison ??? There must be some out there somewhere. Do you guys have any close ups ?? If not, can you point me to any web sites that do ??

    Reply

    • October 28, 2013 at 6:20 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Ian. Comet ISON has not been visited by spacecraft and I am unaware of any plans to do so. However, over the next few weeks as it makes its close pass of the Sun it will be watched closely from Earth and a whole fleet of spacecraft in space so that we can expect many great views. In the meantime the updated version of this post has a spectacular Hubble Space Telescope close up view of the comet taken a few months ago.

      Reply

      • October 28, 2013 at 6:38 pm, Ian said:

        So we can see 13billion light years away, but we still don’t have any clear close ups of Ison yet ??

        Reply

  49. October 28, 2013 at 4:57 pm, Debbie said:

    Wanting to catch a glimpse with our small portable telescope from Perth WA.
    Where to look?

    Reply

  50. October 22, 2013 at 1:05 pm, kiwi said:

    Why do you only mention Australia in the article? New Zealand does exist you know.. hopefully the comet hits earth and destroys it, now that would be awesome.

    Reply

    • October 22, 2013 at 1:14 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello kiwi. Apologies for not mentioning New Zealand in the article, but the information given also applies there as well. And Comet ISON will not hit the Earth.

      Reply

      • November 11, 2013 at 11:11 am, john said:

        i dont think anyone really knows whats going to happen and you can flash up all the computerised models of where its PROJECTED path may take it but in reality….no one on earth knows…it may come out from behind the sun differently and kiwi may get his/her wish, not one person can say for sure how it will come out from behind the sun or if it will even make it past the sun….this is all guess work from computerised models>

        Reply

        • November 11, 2013 at 4:24 pm, Nick Lomb said:

          Hello John. You are quite right. Scientists are unsure if Comet ISON will survive its close approach to the Sun during which it will be subjected to intense heat and the Sun’s gravitational pull will be trying to pull the comet (its nucleus) apart. Even if it does survive, we will not be able to view it from the southern hemisphere but will have to rely on reports and images from the northern hemisphere.

          Reply

  51. October 15, 2013 at 11:08 am, Les McMahon said:

    I will be in Hawaii on holidays between the 12th and 24th November. Will I be able to see Comet Ison and at what time and direction? I am hoping to take photographs without a telescope, do you think that will be possible?

    Reply

    • October 15, 2013 at 12:12 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Les. You are a lucky man for you will be in a prime spot, at the prime time to view Comet ISON. Look before dawn, between 5 and 6 am local time, just to the right or south of east. Binoculars will probably be needed at least for the first few mornings. Each morning the comet will be lower in the sky. On 18 November it will be near the bright star Spica, while on 23 November it will be just to the right and above the planet Mercury.

      Reply

  52. October 12, 2013 at 9:32 am, Jools said:

    Does the same apply for amateur sky watchers in Northern Tassy
    Thanks for all the info

    Reply

    • October 13, 2013 at 3:23 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Jools. Yes.

      Reply

  53. October 10, 2013 at 12:57 am, Ian said:

    I’ve been doing a lot of research on Ison , and found early photos from NASA showing it to be a round object, 500,000mile in diameter,sitting above a scale line the size of Jupiter (the round object above it about 2/3rds the size of that scale line) and yet, just the other day its now somewhere somewhere between an 8-3km object. With there technology, how can there maths differ so much when they can pin point everything else to such perfect measurements. And 2nd, how does it have such an amazing tail months &months before it reaches the heat up line of our solar system.

    Reply

    • October 13, 2013 at 3:58 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Ian. A comet consists of an icy nucleus that is too small to be seen from Earth and is surrounded by a cloud of gas and dust called the coma. Extending from the coma there is a tail that lengthens further as the comet approaches the Sun and heats up. When the comet is far from the Sun it only consists of the nucleus. For Comet ISON the estimates of the width of the nucleus range from 0.2 to 2 km. In contrast, a comet’s coma could be hundreds of thousands of kilometres in width while its tail could be many millions of kilometres long. We will see how large Comet ISON becomes when it is very close to the Sun in late November 2013.

      Reply

      • October 16, 2013 at 4:08 pm, Ian said:

        > thanks for your reply, but the original photo I seen, with the scale line I mentioned, showed the comet as a round sphere, no tail, and very large. It was taken quite a while ago by NASA, but since they closed down, I can’t get access to this photo anymore. Have you seen the photo I’m referring to, with the scale line under the comet ??

        Reply

        • October 16, 2013 at 4:29 pm, Nick Lomb said:

          Hello Ian. No, I haven’t seen the image you mention, but have look at the Hubble image of Comet ISON from 10 April 2013 at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e5/HubbleSite-C2012S1-20130410.jpg. The right hand image has a scale indicating the size of the coma and tail. As in all other comets, the actual relatively small-size nucleus cannot be seen.

          Reply

          • October 16, 2013 at 7:42 pm, Ian said:

            > that’s great. Thanks heaps for your help.

  54. October 07, 2013 at 1:18 pm, ERROL TRIMINGHAM said:

    IT SOUNDS GREAT. I WILL BE CHECKING WITH MY NAKED EYE AND MY CELESTRON C8 TELESCOPE

    Reply

  55. October 04, 2013 at 8:47 pm, Wal said:

    G’day

    At the time of writing this to you ISON is 190,571,986 miles (2.050135 AU) from earth. Can you please tell me what is an AU?

    I got the speed info from a live feed at: http://www.cometison2013.co.uk/perihelion-and-distance/

    Reply

    • October 05, 2013 at 8:42 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Wal. AU stands for Astronomical Unit which is the average distance of the Earth from the Sun. It is 92 955 807 miles or 149 597 871 kilometres.

      Reply

  56. September 30, 2013 at 10:02 am, Jd Bender said:

    There are so many websites and videos saying we will be blasted by meteors by it’s tail after it’s past the sun on it’s route to pas earth on the way out our solar system… I Saw that NASA is keeping a close eye on this theory and will neither confirm or deny the fact. I understand there is nothing we can do bit enjoy the show… It would be nice tho to have some better facts. Also why did nasa on there trajectory animation slow Down the planet’s and kept ISON as same speed when it went around the sun? If they didn’t slow it Down it would show earth in it’s TAIL flight path. But slowing the planets orbits around the sun is making it look like it will miss us by MILES…. no one can answer this and it seems stranger for NASA TO do this …. What are you observations on this matter?

    Reply

    • September 30, 2013 at 12:57 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Jd. The most authorative article that I have read is in NASA Science News http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2013/19apr_isonids/. As you will see around 12 January the Earth may be hit by a stream of microscopic meteors. There is no danger and the chances are that we may not even see them as meteors or streaks in the sky due to their small size.

      Reply

  57. September 29, 2013 at 6:21 pm, Loretta Hofman said:

    This morning at 5.25am I saw what looked like a comet moving through the sky . I saw it just as the sun was coming up , it was travelling along past the sun and continued to travel to the right of me , the tail was parallel with the horizon.
    I live on comboyne plateau nsw and was driving through the town when I saw it. So I’m pretty high up and there are no city lights nearby to interfere. There were no clouds in the sky
    I took a few photos from the same spot and then drove a bit further to take a photo with the sun blocked by part of the mountain, it was definitely moving.
    So I know its a bit early for ISON but just wondering what it could be

    Reply

    • September 29, 2013 at 8:52 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Loretta. A moving white object just as the Sun was coming up – it must have been an aircraft vapour trail. Please see http://www.sydneyobservatory.com.au/2009/nope-its-not-a-comet-nor-superman-its-just-a-plane/.

      Reply

    • September 29, 2013 at 9:16 pm, Loretta Hofman said:

      Thank you for your quick reply >

      Reply

    • November 21, 2013 at 11:24 pm, Collette said:

      > Hi loretta – I’ve seen something similar on the Comboyne -I live in Taree and also have a home in Elands – past 20 years – Comet Ison has uniquely come form the Ort cloud with millions of asteroids and meteors in its tail – As a sun grazer it should break up but if it survives the Sun on January 12th it will be dragging that dirty tail right across our path – On that date I advise to stay inside – I’m heading to the limestone caves in Wells, England on that day as a tourist for fun but also I feel a hell of a lot safer underground just for that day if Ison is still crossing our path Be aware that meteors like the Russian one that exploded earlier this year cause instant sunburn from the massive burst of intense UV when they explode. if they are over a metre in length within our atmosphere they can burst eardrums and smash glass with the sonic boom upon explosion – so pray this thing busts up and stay safe Loretta :)

      Reply

      • November 22, 2013 at 12:39 pm, Nick Lomb said:

        Hello Collette. The tail of Comet ISON like other comets is made of very fine dust particles and not ‘asteroids and meteors’. There will be no noticeable effect if some of that dust reaches the Earth and would just make a small addition to the thousands of tonnes of such material that reaches the Earth each year. Enjoy the limestone caves at Wells, but you and everyone else will be quite safe outside.

        Reply

  58. September 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm, peta said:

    I live in Darwin and, clouds permitting, how visible will comet Ison be to us?
    Can I also ask if we will see comet lovejoy? I have been watching the sky since I saw bennets comet as a child, I have seen many wonderful things, but comets are a favourite.

    Thank you.

    Reply

    • September 15, 2013 at 6:16 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello peta. Unfortunately, the geometry of the approach of Comet ISON will not be as favourable for those of us in the southern hemisphere as for those in the north. The best time to observe the comet is likely to be low in the east before dawn from mid to late November 2013. Terry Lovejoy’s latest comet will be around at the same time, a little towards the north, but it is likely to be only visible through telescopes and even pointing a telescope at it may be difficult

      Reply

  59. August 18, 2013 at 12:34 pm, vicki said:

    I saw comet Ison on 13 August while I was on nightshift. I work in WA Newman, on a mine site. While on nightshift as I was driving up a ramp out of the pit (I drive a dump truck) I saw a flash of light like lightening.
    Weird I thought as I had not seen storm clouds earlier. I pushed my visor up and saw a black ball with a huge light trail. Looked like it was twice as long as my my truck. My truck is 11.5 mts long ,and the ball section looked just as round in size. I watched it as I climbed the ramp. I was fully loaded, in first gear doing about 8 km, so I watched it for several minutes before I got to the top of the ramp and I lost sight of it. The most awesome thing I have seen in the sky.

    Vicki

    Reply

    • August 19, 2013 at 12:46 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Vicki. Thanks for your report, but whatever a ‘black ball with a huge light trail’ was it was not Comet ISON. As yet the comet is still approaching the Sun and is still so faint that it can only be imaged by people with large telescopes who know exactly where to look. At the same time I would imagine that a mine operating 24 hours a day is floodlit with bright lights, so how could you see a black ball in the sky? Did anyone else see it? Maybe it was an effect of changing contrast as you you were driving up the ramp.

      Reply

  60. July 26, 2013 at 2:08 am, leszczu said:

    Reply

    • July 26, 2013 at 12:36 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Very nice animation. Thanks

      Reply

  61. July 20, 2013 at 2:37 am, gerald said:

    Hi. there is talk of the tail of this coment and the dust and debris. will hit earth. nasa are saying its dust. but other are talking about much larger fall out after it passes. and also talk of another possible 7 bodys following with it.
    1. will this affect the southern parts of australia. if they were larger say (meteors)
    2 what a the possible chances of this hitting earth. mars or any other planets body on its way through? 3. what of the return trip from around the sun?

    Reply

    • July 24, 2013 at 1:56 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Gerald. Paul Wiegert of the University of Western Ontario has calculated that on or about 12 January 2014 the Earth maybe hit by fine dust ejected by the comet. This dust is expected to be so fine grained that it will not burn up in the atmosphere but gradually settle out and reach the ground over the following weeks and months. It will not be noticeable in any way and there are no serious suggestions of larger debris from the comet reaching us on Earth.

      Reply

  62. July 12, 2013 at 2:49 pm, STUART MCINTOSH said:

    I clearly recall the life affirming Halleys and its sense of wonder

    Reply

  63. May 03, 2013 at 10:24 am, malcolm said:

    hi
    l am a member of the the bdas in bendigo also l an keen sun veiwer what are the chance of of been a fire ball in to the sun

    Reply

    • May 03, 2013 at 3:58 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Malcolm. Comet ISON will pass near the Sun, but will not hit it and so there is no chance of a spectacular fireball on the Sun. Still we may be able to see the comet in daytime when it is near the Sun and that will be exciting enough.

      Reply

      • May 06, 2013 at 7:47 am, George Patton said:

        Is this the same comet as 1680 -1347 – 1014 – 678 – 337- 5BC?

        Reply

      • May 13, 2013 at 6:20 pm, Eddy said:

        > Hi I think way too many variables ISON is app 400 million miles away actively losing app 56 tons of matter per minute the nucleus is large possibly more than 5 km and may have 4 companions, on top of this it will pass very close to mars it will be interesting to see if they interact electromagnetically
        or affect each others orbit / path, or even if the comet will disintegrate could be an incredible show :) and use a welders mask .. not a post :)

        Reply

      • September 06, 2013 at 12:34 pm, Lesley said:

        > Thank you for this blog …it seems you are sure it will pass by without any negative effects…like not hitting sun etc, however, you also comment that comets are unpredictable….so how can you be sure?
        Cheers, Lesley

        Reply

        • September 06, 2013 at 7:13 pm, Nick Lomb said:

          Hello Lesley. Comets are hard to predict as far as how bright they become, but their motion is completely predictable using Keplerian paths around the Sun. There really is nothing to fear from Comet ISON except that it may not reach the hoped for naked-eye brightness.

          Reply

  64. March 13, 2013 at 11:05 am, Circulator 38 said:

    Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) Facebook Page – http://facebook.com/C2012S1

    Reply

  65. January 28, 2013 at 4:53 pm, Nick Lomb said:

    Hello George. That’s an interesting suggestion that sadly does not match the observations. These indicate that Comet ISON is making its first visit to the inner solar system from the Oort Cloud, which is a huge reservoir of comets surrounding the solar system. The orbit of the comet does have some similarities to that of 1680, but is not the same. If the orbits were the same it could mean that once, possibly thousands of years ago, they were part of the same progenitor comet and not necessarily that they were one and the same comet.

    Reply

    • May 06, 2013 at 7:51 am, George Patton said:

      Yet we have reports of a prominent comet every 333 years for the last four revolutions from 1347 on occurring at the same time of year and same portion of the star field, can you explain this?>

      Reply

  66. January 26, 2013 at 1:04 pm, GEORGE said:

    THE TRUE STORY OF COMET ISON COMING NOVEMBER 2013:
    CALLED BY ONE ASTRONOMER A “ONCE IN A CIVILIZATION” COMET, IT MAY ACTUALLY BE A ONCE IN 333 YEARS COMET; IT, THE TWIN IN ORBIT TO THE GREAT COMET OF 1680 WHICH SO TERRIFIED EUROPEANS AND NEW ENGLANDERS THAT DAYS OF FASTING AND ATONEMENT WERE ORDERED IN NEW YORK CITY AND GERMANY!
    TRACING THE REVOLUTIONS BACK ANOTHER 333 YEARS TO 1347 IT IS CALLED COMET NEGRA AND BLAMED FOR THE BLACK PLAGUE THAT RAVISHED EUROPE. IN 1014 IT WAS REFERRED TO AS A ‘TERRIBLE COMET WITH A FIERY TAIL’ BY NAZI-HUNTER ELLE WEIZEL IN HIS NOVEL RASHI. ALONG THIS TIME LINE IT SHOULD HAVE APPEARED IN 15 AD THE YEAR AFTER THE DEATH OF AUGUSTUS CAESAR. BUT COULD IT HAVE APPEARED IN 5 BC INSTEAD?

    Reply

    • July 24, 2013 at 1:52 pm, Tom said:

      > Great sruff George I was investigating the same 333 year cycle also noting every second cycle seems to be more pronouced. 333 x 2=666 years.
      Cheers!

      Reply

  67. November 12, 2012 at 10:15 pm, Robbi Luscombe-Newman said:

    hope so

    Reply

    • September 01, 2013 at 1:05 pm, Someguynamedfrank said:

      > There is more to this than most people think. Very exciting time to be alive!

      Reply

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