Comet ISON from the Southern Hemisphere

Comet ISON from the Southern Hemisphere

Published by Nick Lomb on October 15, 2013 67 Comments

Comet ISON and Mars Sydney November 2013_500px_Nick Lomb

Comet ISON and the planet Mars as seen from Sydney at dawn in November 2013. The position of the comet is shown for different dates, eg ISON 8 means is its position on 8 November 2013. The direction of the tail, which always points away from the Sun, is marked. The length of the tail on different dates is purely indicative. Chart Nick Lomb

Comet ISON may not become the comet of the century, but it is gradually brightening as it races towards the Sun. It is likely to be at its brightest and possibly a binocular or even a naked-eye object just before and just after its close encounter with the Sun on 29 November 2013. Sadly, the geometry of the comet’s path is unfavourable for observers in the Southern Hemisphere.

Currently, skilful amateur astronomers, who are willing to lose their early morning sleep, are able to image the comet and websites such as Spaceweather.com are building up large collections of their spectacular images. Next month the comet’s increased brightness should make it easier to observe, but, as can be seen from the chart above, it is also rapidly appearing progressively lower in the dawn sky.

One of the many reasons this is an interesting comet is that it is making its first approach to the inner solar system. That means that scientists can only guess at how bright it will become at the time it is closest to the Sun. Professional and amateur astronomers will be eagerly observing the comet from the ground, while a whole fleet of spacecraft have turned their cameras in its direction.

Another major unknown is whether the comet will survive its passage through the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona. There its central core or nucleus will be subject to both strong heating and bombardment by radiation, while the Sun’s strong gravitational pull will be trying to tear it apart through tidal forces. Still the best guess from scientists is that the nucleus or at least a large chunk of it will manage to sweep around the Sun and start making its way out of the solar system.

comet_ISON_4-10-2013_Hubble

The Hubble Space Telescope’s view of Comet ISON on 10 April 2013. Courtesy NASA and ESA

As discussed in a previous post, once the comet has made perihelion passage (perihelion is its closest point to the Sun), from the Southern Hemisphere it will be below the horizon both in the morning and evening sky. Our best chance to observe the comet with binoculars or the unaided eye is early in the morning before dawn in late November.

A site with a good view of the eastern horizon without obscuration by trees or houses will need to be chosen as the comet will be low in the sky. Dark spots overlooking the ocean could provide suitable viewing spots for Sydneysiders while the western shore of Port Phillip Bay maybe suitable for those in Melbourne. It should be noted though that a waning gibbous Moon will be in the sky at the same time as the comet and may make viewing its faint tail difficult.

Another chance is to try to view in the daytime on the day it is closest to the Sun and the days before and after, just in case the comet becomes sufficiently bright to be seen. If you do that block the Sun with a post and please take EXTREME care. Do not even consider using binoculars or a telescope! Note that the risks are real as after each eclipse of the Sun there are ill-informed or careless people who present to eye doctors with permanent and unrepairable eye damage from looking at the Sun.

If all else fails keep an eye on the Spaceweather.com gallery as that is the safest and easiest way to enjoy the brief and rare visit of Comet ISON.

Leave a Reply

67 Responses to “Comet ISON from the Southern Hemisphere”

  1. October 19, 2014 at 12:48 pm, Margaeret M said:

    Asking any idea of time today to see this comet, I live in Redcliffe 4020 North of Brisbane Please if any one has the time an email would be appreciated Just cannot find out The times etc., Hoping I am not too late for the event today Thank you all , from Margaret

    Reply

  2. December 03, 2013 at 11:58 am, Patrick Munoz said:

    Can someone please explain the difference between ISON and Hercolubus? Are they the same comets?

    Reply

    • December 03, 2013 at 1:11 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Patrick. Comet ISON is a comet that approached the Sun and disintegrated. It never posed a threat to Earth. Hercolubus is purely fantasy: a non-existent planet that was imagined by a Columbian author.

      Reply

  3. December 01, 2013 at 7:29 am, General information about Comet ISON by Karyn B Jules | Sciences 360 said:

    […] times in the Southern Hemisphere are restricted to pre-perihelion, low in the east just before sunrise, unless the comet brightens […]

    Reply

  4. November 29, 2013 at 10:07 am, Dynamo said:

    Hi Nick & all, just saw another update on Comet Ison, on solarham, it looks as it has curved to one corner of the sun and has lost some of its light but still intact for now and heading away from the sun into orbit once again.
    Its amazing it didn’t break up completely hopefully it will continue on with its
    course and drive pass our Earth Dec to Jan etc.. “Happy viewing all” Its been
    “Real Great & Real Interesting!” I still think that Comet McNaught was the Comet of the Century. Well especially for us in the Southern Hemisphere, back in 2006 & 2007 we saw it hanging down in the Southwest after sunset
    here in Feilding & Manawatu.

    Reply

    • November 29, 2013 at 11:27 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Dynamo. Yes it seems that Comet ISON has largely disintegrated as it passed close to the Sun, but some parts of it may have survived. We will know more in the next few days as more data is analysed and new observations are made.

      Reply

  5. November 29, 2013 at 7:32 am, Dynamo said:

    Hi NIck & all, I just saw the latest up date on Ison on solarham.com and the recorded movement of Ison into the sun was pretty cool to watch but it looks like the comet may of fizzed out. They are still keeping up dates to see if it survived desintagration.

    Reply

  6. November 28, 2013 at 4:01 am, ALL ABOUT COMET ISON | THE TRUTHSEEKER'S JOURNAL said:

    […] HEMISPHERE:  As per the Sydney Observatory – The best chance to see Comet ISON will be from mid to late November 2013 in the mornings before […]

    Reply

  7. November 27, 2013 at 6:52 pm, trevor said:

    Anything visible from Perth western Australia thank you.

    Reply

    • November 28, 2013 at 7:53 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Trevor. I am afraid Comet ISON is now too close to the Sun to be seen from Earth and if it manages to pass the Sun it will only be visible from the northern hemisphere.

      Reply

  8. November 26, 2013 at 11:44 pm, About comet ISON by Karyn B Jules | Sciences 360 said:

    […] times in the Southern hemisphere are restricted to pre-perihelion, low in the East just before sunrise, unless the comet brightens […]

    Reply

  9. November 26, 2013 at 9:12 pm, Judd said:

    Hi, I’am in the Northern Territory, can the comet be seen early in the morning here like in sydney or do we have to wait for it to come back,? if it survives the trip?

    Reply

    • November 27, 2013 at 12:10 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Judd. The comet is now too close to the Sun to be seen, but from the northern parts of the Territory you may have a chance to see it after it passes the Sun. Assuming it survives its close encounter, you may be able to see it just above the eastern horizon just before dawn from the second week of December onwards.

      Reply

  10. November 26, 2013 at 6:16 pm, Dynomo said:

    Hi Nick & everyone who’s interested on the movements of Comet ISON.
    I have found a reliable web site called; (solarham.com) it covers the present where about’s of the comet and of the Suns activity in relationship to our Earth. It’s all pretty real. Including live & prerecorded movies of ISON & more information. Its free so enjoy.

    Reply

    • November 26, 2013 at 8:01 pm, Gotmeuggieson said:

      > check out BPEARTHWATCH and Suspicious0bservers on YouTube. All factual data being presented. And if you’ve got the sense of humour for it try Thornews. All comet ison, solar dynamics, earth sciences aficionados

      Reply

  11. November 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm, Chris said:

    Can it hit earth?

    Reply

    • November 26, 2013 at 3:29 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Chris. No, Comet ISON cannot hit the Earth and there is nothing to fear from it.

      Reply

  12. November 26, 2013 at 10:50 am, Jonathan said:

    will las vegas Nevada be able to see this commet .

    Reply

    • November 26, 2013 at 10:54 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Jonathan. 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 away from the bright lights of Las Vegas and its casinos. 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

  13. November 24, 2013 at 12:44 am, hayley said:

    Hi! I enjoy reading these, but I was wondering if ISON will be visible from west gippsland, Victoria? I’m north of Warragul, on a nice farm away from large town/ city lights.
    Also, if it is possible to see ISON in my area, when exactly would it be best to spot?
    Thank you!

    Reply

    • November 25, 2013 at 3:23 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Hayley. 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

  14. November 21, 2013 at 7:19 pm, Gaz said:

    Hi,

    Does anyone have any recommendations to view ISON within the sydney metro area?

    I’ve got a 8″ dob hopefully will get a great view!

    Thanks

    Reply

    • November 22, 2013 at 12:25 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Gaz. Comet ISON is now probably too close to the Sun and too far in the morning twilight to be visible from the ground, especially from the southern hemisphere. Standby though for lots of pictures from spacecraft in the next few days. Keep an eye on the Spaceweather website. Instead use your telescope to observe Venus in the evening sky as it becoming a thin and spectacular crescent.

      Reply

  15. November 21, 2013 at 8:20 am, Gaye Donnellan said:

    People up here in the Whitsundays are spreading rumours that the ison comet and the 2nd sun will catastrophically damage the earth. I spoke to your staff member Alan and he assured me all was OK – but now they are
    going on about the second sun and that the moon is upside down – I am not
    joking, t hat is what they are saying- people are actually sailing out of here to god knows where because of it. Please please answer this email and tell us that this is not going to happen. Thanku for your help
    Gaye Donnellan

    Reply

    • November 21, 2013 at 11:42 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Gaye. I am sorry to hear that people are spreading absurd rumours about Comet ISON. Sadly, any time an object is in the news doomsayers grab their opportunity to make things up. There is absolutely no danger to anyone on Earth from Comet ISON and nothing dramatic will happen except possibly to the comet itself as it may disintegrate when it gets close to the Sun. Incidentally, there is no second Sun in the solar system, but to people from the northern hemisphere the Moon does appear upside down.

      Reply

    • November 22, 2013 at 10:48 am, coffee said:

      iy yi yi …..

      Reply

  16. November 20, 2013 at 5:24 pm, Greg said:

    Hi,

    Can you please post some of you own photo’s, not supplied by NASA.

    Thank you.

    Reply

    • November 20, 2013 at 5:43 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Greg. My aim is to tell people where to look for the comet and what to expect. As explained in the post, it has been difficult to view from the southern hemisphere, though some keen amateur astrophotographers have succeeded, and now it is probably too close to the Sun to do so. If you want to see photographs of the comet, there are plenty of photographs of Comet ISON on the internet such as at the Spaceweather website.

      Reply

  17. November 19, 2013 at 12:31 pm, From Quarks to Quasars » Comet ISON now Visible to the Naked Human Eye: said:

    […] Hemisphere will be able to easily see it; however, it is extremely difficult to see from the Southern hemisphere because it is so close to the […]

    Reply

  18. November 18, 2013 at 11:17 pm, Mark said:

    Hi …
    What if … ISON causes the Sun to burst forth a barrage of CMEs and hitting our depleted defence system ?

    Reply

    • November 19, 2013 at 11:24 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Mark. The mass of Comet ISON is tiny compared to that of the Sun. Hence the Sun will have a major affect on Comet ISON, but Comet ISON will not affect the Sun.

      Reply

      • November 21, 2013 at 9:32 pm, Gotmeuggieson said:

        > > Not even any chance of solar flaring as we’ve seen with other grazing and diving comets?

        Reply

        • November 22, 2013 at 12:26 pm, Nick Lomb said:

          No.

          Reply

          • November 22, 2013 at 12:39 pm, Gotmeuggieson said:

            > so even NASA admit they have no idea but you give a difinative no? Hmm… Guess well see soon enough!

  19. November 17, 2013 at 10:29 pm, Felicity said:

    Hi there
    Any chance it’s visible with the naked eye from Canberra ?
    I don’t know anything about telescopes and don’t have binoculars- should I get up early at all or not worry ?
    Best vantage point suggestions from Canberra would be welcome

    Reply

    • November 18, 2013 at 11:51 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Felicity. 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. Unless you know of a dark spot outside Canberra with an unobstructed view of the eastern horizon that you could easily reach before dawn, I wouldn’t bother losing any sleep. Still, if you are keen you could contact the Canberra Astronomical Society in case they have activities planned.

      Reply

      • November 18, 2013 at 9:44 pm, Felicity said:

        Thanks nick! will the visibility perhaps
        improve in December for us Southern Hemisphere dwellers, after the comet has gone around the sun?>

        Reply

        • November 19, 2013 at 11:26 am, Nick Lomb said:

          Hello again Felicity. Unfortunately, once Comet ISON rounds the Sun on 29 November our time it will only be visible from the northern hemisphere.

          Reply

  20. November 17, 2013 at 8:57 pm, John Culver said:

    will it be possible to see ISON in south western victoria

    Reply

    • November 18, 2013 at 11:35 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello John. 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 with binoculars.

      Reply

  21. November 17, 2013 at 1:09 pm, Ripaking said:

    Can Comet ISON be seen from Perth, Western Australia? If so, when would be the optimal time to view it?

    Reply

    • November 17, 2013 at 1:16 pm, Nick Lomb said:

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

      Reply

  22. November 13, 2013 at 1:49 pm, Dynamo said:

    Hi Nick, are not we all very fortunate in this day & age to have easy access to find out whats going on in our outer space. Even if you don’t have a telescope
    etc..but can find out about up to date comet’s & sun solar activity through the internet it makes it all enjoyable.

    Reply

    • November 13, 2013 at 2:55 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Dynamo. Yes, we are certainly fortunate in the wide range of technological resources available to us today.

      Reply

  23. November 09, 2013 at 8:44 am, keith said:

    ps am at Byron Bay with a fantastic vista to Horizon .

    Reply

  24. November 09, 2013 at 8:43 am, keith said:

    been out a few mornings “looking ” and not seen anything yet .
    I am not an astronomer but a very keen night Photographer.
    So my dilemma is how do i find mars in the morning sky as this seems to be the point we look around from. and secondly how long is it visible ( with naked eye ) will be using a 100 to 400mm lens to shoot , when and if it shows it’s self :-)
    any help greatly appreciated

    Reply

    • November 10, 2013 at 5:46 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Keith. Comet ISON is still too faint to be seen with the unaided eye and so somewhat tricky to find even in binoculars. You could wait for another week as on 18 November it is near the star Spica and hopefully a little brighter. In the meantime try to locate Spica in the morning sky. The evening chart for March matches the early morning sky at the moment quite well – Spica is visible below the constellation of Corvus in the eastern sky.

      Reply

      • November 10, 2013 at 6:50 pm, keith said:

        thanks Nick..

        Reply

  25. November 09, 2013 at 2:15 am, eclipsoid said:

    I know it’s a little low, but what about the east coast of Wilson’s Prom?

    Reply

    • November 10, 2013 at 5:58 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello eclipsoid. Google Maps indicates that the main road through Wilsons Promontory runs along its eastern side and so does not facilitate a view towards the east. Still if you know the area well and there are safely accessible places with a view of the eastern horizon then it would be ideal for trying to observe the comet.

      Reply

  26. November 07, 2013 at 1:13 pm, Dynamo said:

    Thanks Nick for your feed back, I forgot to mention I saw & heard a meter shoot through over Feilding back in 1986. It was fantastic and scary experience at the same time. I just got off the bus from Palmerston North back home to Feilding one Friday night between 10pm to 10.50pm and i just crossed over the rail way line heading up grey street, when all of a sudden i got a fright to see a meter shoot over head then within a second a great booming noise followed. I felt the ground shake while at the same time I had covered my ears for the noise of it. I wished I had a camera back then. It came from the south west headed north east. To what I remember it had quite a long blue white gassy tail with a black rock fire ball leading in front. I ran home as fast as i could and glad i wasn’t the only person to see it at that time. My Parents at first didn’t believe me then i told them to turn the tv onto the news, sure enough it was reported. Look- ing back now it was a very close encounter it was very low in the sky, low enough to make the ground shake pretty good.
    So I hope that Comet ISON is at a safe distance to watch?

    Reply

    • November 07, 2013 at 1:57 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello again Dynamo. You had a great experience back in 1986, but if you see something similar in 2013 or 2014 it will not be due to Comet ISON.

      Reply

      • November 20, 2013 at 5:11 pm, keith christie said:

        Hi Nick. took a shot of Venus last night with the closeness of the constellation? ( i noticed you named it the day before
        In the shot i took last night i have lost that info a repost would be awesome . (shot west) to the top left of Venus there is a series of stars that create a distinct horse shoe shape
        Can you give me any info on this?
        Also if you need to see my image let me know via email and i will send
        Thanks

        Reply

        • November 20, 2013 at 5:35 pm, Nick Lomb said:

          Hello Keith. In yesterday’s Daily cosmobite I mentioned that Venus was visible in the constellation of Sagittarius the Archer that many people in Australia call the Teapot. There is a chart with the post which may help to identify your “horse shoe” group.

          Reply

  27. November 05, 2013 at 1:47 pm, Cruithneach said:

    Blast !,
    I’m in Eastern Canberra on the Western foot of Mount Ainslie and haven’t used a car since the second gulf scam.
    Before then, when people were whining about fuel prices I posted, and while its was still about 60c to 80c a litre “what liquid can you buy for less than milk other than water and petroleum;stop whining” Me and my big mouth, the psychopaths must have seen that post. Now the oil prices really are a scam, no one says a bloody Iota, let alone a syllable. I’m surrounded by hypnotised monkeys; literally.There’s the odd man but he thinks he’s a monkey too.
    Evolving my a@#, devolving!.
    Mars will not rise above the 33 degrees of mountain on those dates before dawn,that means I either sleep out on Stromlo, or climb Mount Ainslie and look out straight over Queanbeyan’s Corona of light pollution.
    Shakes his fist at Heaven; Now I will destroy International Rescue!!! but I’ll need a lift…… :)

    Reply

    • November 05, 2013 at 4:02 pm, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Cruithneach. Don’t worry too much if you miss out seeing Comet ISON. We still do not know how bright it will become when it is closest to the Sun at the end of the month and, in any case, the geometry of the comet’s path does not favour us in the southern hemisphere.

      Reply

  28. November 05, 2013 at 8:14 am, Dynamo said:

    Hi, I am keen interested space watcher from Feilding N.Z and am really looking forward to spotting the Comet Ison when it is a bit more visible for the short time over Southern Hemisphere. In past I missed seeing Halley’s Comet but did get to see the McNaught comet in the south west in January back in 2006 it was real brilliant and fantastic to see. So lets hope that Comet Ison will put on just as greater show than its predecessors.

    Reply

    • November 05, 2013 at 10:06 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello Dynamo. Good luck in observing Comet ISON. From your location in North Island you should have access to a good dark sky and should be able to easily see the comet. Whether it will be spectacular or just interesting only time will tell.

      Reply

  29. October 29, 2013 at 8:07 pm, nathan said:

    Thanks for your article, I am in Wellington nz, and hoping to catch some photos of Ison. Fingers crossed.
    Do you know which direction I would need to look?

    Reply

    • October 30, 2013 at 11:32 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello nathan. The direction is east in the early morning just before dawn. See the chart in the updated version of this article here.

      Reply

  30. October 22, 2013 at 7:25 am, coffee said:

    just wondering as it seems to be getting close to a visual 3 am to 5 am best time? and is anyone sighting this yet?
    o am off byron bay nsw australia ..

    Reply

    • October 22, 2013 at 11:38 am, Nick Lomb said:

      Hello coffee. Currently Comet ISON is in a good position near the planet Mars and is visible until dawn at around 5 am. However, it is still faint and a bright Moon is in the sky in the mornings, so it is only accessible to serious amateur astronomers with a fair-sized telescope.

      Reply

      • October 22, 2013 at 7:53 pm, coffee said:

        > thanks, so in a week or so will be better, and what will be the best daze to expect the best view? and best time will always be around that 5 am period?

        Reply

        • October 23, 2013 at 11:41 am, Nick Lomb said:

          Hello again coffee. As I mention above for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere the best time to view Comet ISON is at dawn before it goes around the Sun in late November. Dawn from Sydney (technically nautical twilight) is about 5 am at the beginning of the month and progressively comes a minute or so earlier each morning.

          The best mornings to view? Probably late in the month if you can find a good viewing spot with a view of a dark horizon to the east on a morning with no Moon in the sky. Of course, if the comet does something exciting like break up or have an outburst it may become brighter earlier.

          Reply

          • October 23, 2013 at 1:06 pm, coffee said:

            > thanks for your time again :-).
            I have a 100 to 400 mm canon lens so this morning i went down and set camera on mirror lock , tripod and shot at 25second shutter speed , reducing to 15 second ss .
            it was a bit of a machine gun shoot as i couldn’t pick out Ison
            as it gets darker in the morning ( loosing the moon ) hope to accomplish a shot ..
            thanks again can’t wait for other ppls experiences via comments
            Keith Christie images byron bay FB

  31. October 18, 2013 at 12:11 pm, Allgemeines Live-Blog ab dem 18. Oktober 2013 | Skyweek Zwei Punkt Null said:

    [...] Hilfe von Amateur-Funkern, warum es keine Meteore von ISON & Co. gibt – und wie man ihn auf der Südhemisphäre (nicht) sehen kann. [3:05 [...]

    Reply

Search

About

The 'Observations' blog is run by the staff of Sydney Observatory which is located at Observatory Hill, The Rocks, in Sydney, Australia.

This site is for discussion purposes only and does not represent the official views of Sydney Observatory. Any views expressed on this website are those of the individual post author only. Sydney Observatory accepts no liability for the content of this site.

Please direct any correspondence about the content of the blog to:
observatory [at] phm.gov.au
and about web matters to:
web [at] phm.gov.au.