In late November of this year, Comet ISON (comet C/2012 S1), will be at only 700,000 miles from the sun and may be visible to the naked eye here on Earth. Possibly very visible, according to some experts. In fact, some have said that it would be the “Comet of the Century”
Will it? No one knows for sure. In the early 1970’s, Comet Kahoutek was also billed as such, being expected to outperform the 1910 pass of Halley’s Comet. In 1910, I’m given to understand that Halley’s Comet covered half the sky at one point. Nothing like its poor performance in 1986.
As for Comet Kahoutek, it was an extreme disappointment, to say the least. I never saw it myself, though I did look for it. I did see Halley’s comet, but it was very hard to find and looked more like a faint dusty spot.
But, I have seen two other comets, though neither matched the 1910 Halley’s Comet pass. (Which I would have liked to have seen but that was over a half century before my time!)
One was in early 1974. I don’t remember the name of the comet, but it was clearly visible to the naked eye early in the morning just before sunrise. it had a well-defined head and tail. It wasn’t visible for too long a time.
Hale-Bopp was the other, appearing in 1996-1997 and was visible for over a year, longer than any other comet recorded. It was impressive and could be easily seen from even the polluted skies of Southern California.
Will ISON be spectacular or will it fizzle? No one knows for sure and comets, like Kahoutek, have been proven to be quite unpredictable. So, come November, watch the skies. Maybe we’ll have quite a show and ISON will really be the “Comet of the Century”.
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