Comet ISON passes Mars on its way to the Inner Solar System

By the end of November, everyone will be talking about Comet ISON. By then the comet will be rounding the Sun, a mere 1 million kilometres above its fiery surface!  

This week, it passed relatively close to the planet Mars. (just 10 million km) Spacecraft orbiting the planet and on its surface were scheduled to take pictures - some are just being released. 

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On November 30, the comet reaches its closest point to the Sun. Astronomers are unsure if the comet will survive such a close pass - it may break up into several mini-comets.  If it does survive it may appear as a comet visible to the unaided eye (ie. without binoculars or telescope) in the eastern sky just before dawn (see diagram below) 

Comets are somewhat fickle - there were predictions a year ago when ISON was discovered that this could be a "Comet of the Century" - ie. a very bright comet. These predictions have waned somewhat - it may be a rather bright comet. We are still unsure.

Never the less, those interested in seeing the comet should be prepared to take a trip out of the city into a dark rural area during the first week in December to get a view of a potentially spectacular comet.   Be sure to use binoculars if you have them. 

Stay tuned to this blog for updates on Comet ISON. 

Courtesy Sky and Telescope Magazine  

Courtesy Sky and Telescope Magazine