A new comet named C/ 2012 S1 (ISON) could be brighter than the moon when it passes the Earth in 2013. In fact, scientists believe it may be so bright that it is visible during the day.
While some astronomers are skeptical about comet ISON’s brightness, others like Karl Battams, a scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory who monitors comets for the NASA-supported Sungrazer Comet Project, assure that we should watch for it, reports NBC News. Battams stated:
“This is one to watch, definitely. But the astronomy community in general tries not to overhype these things. Potentially it will be amazing. Potentially it will be a huge dud.”
ISON’s discovery was based off of imagery collected on Friday by the International Scientific Optical Network’s 16-inch Santel reflecting telescope in Russia, and the new comet soon rose to the top of the charts.
Since the superstar comet’s discovery, scientists have been going back through their files to locate and “pre-discovery” images, so that they can calculate ISON’s orbit.
The National Post notes that Ernesto Guido, Giovanni Sostero Nick Howes, who first discovered the comet, stated:
“Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) will get to within 0.012AU of the Sun (extremely close) at the end of November 2013 and then to ~0.4AU from Earth at the beginning of January 2014!”
AU is short for an Astronomical Unit, and it the approximate distance between the Earth and our Sun. The comet will come within 1.1 million miles from the Sun. The astronomers continued, “According to its orbit, this comet might become a naked-eye object in the period November 2013 – January 2014.”
Because of its closeness to the sun, comet ISON could be brighter than the full moon, which Astronomy Magazine’s Michael E. Bakich asserts that it “probably will become the brightest comet anyone alive has ever seen.”
Over the next year, as comet ISON approaches, we can expect it to be compared with the Great Comet of 2007, and even the Great Comet of 1680. Of course, we can also expect mumbles about past letdowns, such as Comet Kohoutek and Comet Elenin. Despite this, we may still be treated to an awesome view come November of 2013.