sorry this is so late – i’ve already let two comets pass this year without comment.
there will be numerous opportunities to view comets in the night – and even during the daytime. and, next year, mars could take a direct hit, as a comet is set to pass within 31,000 miles ! that’s a close call, and as it approaches mars, we will be treated to a spectacular view of how heavenly bodies interact, when the comet’s and mar’s energy fields come in contact. there will be no doubt about the electric nature of the universe after that!
enjoy the show!
Astronomers are excited about a sungrazing comet discovered late in 2012. For a short time, it might become as bright as a full moon. That’ll be around the time of its perihelion – or closest approach to the sun – on November 28, 2013. This comet is called C/2012 S1 (ISON) by astronomers. All of us around the globe should be able to see it. Look below for a month-by-month Comet ISON viewing schedule.
Comet ISON will come within 800,000 miles (1.2 million km) of our sun’s surface on November 28. That’s over 100 times closer to the sun than Earth. This close pass to the sun might cause Comet ISON to break to pieces. If it doesn’t break up, Comet ISON should become very bright. It might bright enough to see in daylight, near the sun, briefly. If it survives, it should go on to have a dazzling showing in December 2013.
Comet at its best right now
Comet Pan-STARRS will be at its brightest on Sunday (March 10) when it makes its closest approach to the sun. At that time the comet will be about 28 million miles (45 million km) from the sun — a bit closer to the star than Mercury, which will be about 37 million miles (60 million km) from the sun. [Comet Pan-STARRS in Night Sky Explained (Infographic)]
The comet will still be low in the western sky on Sunday, and may be lost in the sun’s glare. It will fade in brightness over the next few days, but at the same time will be higher in the sky at sunset. SPACE.com will provide up-to-date information on sighting opportunities for the comet.
Two comet-watching dates to prepare for now will be next Tuesday and Wednesday (March 12 and 13). On those evenings, the thin crescent moon will be close to the comet in the sky.
Depending on the size and direction of the comet’s tail, the moon may actually be silhouetted against the tail on March 13.
On April 3, Comet Pan-STARRS will pass within a few degrees of the Andromeda Galaxy, making for a great photo opportunity for stargazers with telescopes. The comet and the galaxy will both shine at about 5th-magnitude on that date.
Comet ISON month-by-month in late 2013.
August and September 2013. The comet should become visible in August and September 2013 to observers at dark locations using small telescopes or possibly even binoculars.
October 2013. Comet ISON should become visible to the unaided eye, but only barely in the early part of the month. The comet will be sweeping in front of the constellation Leo then. It’ll pass first near Leo’s brightest star Regulus, then near the planet Mars. Maybe these brighter objects will help you find it that month. Meanwhile, the comet itself will be getting brighter during October.
November 2013. Comet ISON will continue to brighten throughout the month as it nears its late November perihelion (closest point to our sun). Plus ISON will pass very close to the bright star Spica and the planet Saturn, both in the constellation Virgo. Its perihelion (closest point to our sun) on November 28 will be an exciting time. The comet will come within 800,000 miles (1.2 million km) of our sun’s surface. If all goes well, and the comet doesn’t break up (as comets sometimes do), the terrific heating Comet ISON will undergo when it’s closest to our parent star might turn the comet into a brilliant object. Some are predicting that ISON will become as bright as a full moon! That would make Comet ISON a daylight object, briefly. Remember, though, at perihelion, Comet ISON will appear close to the sun on the sky’s dome (only 4.4° north of the sun on November 28). Although the comet will be bright, you’ll need to look carefully to see it in the sun’s glare. Some expert help around this time might be called for, and we’ll announce comet-viewing parties as we hear about them.
December 2013. This may be the best month to see Comet ISON, assuming it has survived its close pass near the sun intact. The comet will be visible both in the evening sky after sunset and in the morning sky before sunrise. As ISON’s distance from the sun increases, it’ll grow dimmer. But, for a time, it should be as bright as our sky’s brightest planet, Venus, and it should have a long comet tail. People all over Earth will be able to see it, but it’ll be best seen from the Northern Hemisphere as 2013 draws to a close.
January 2014. Will ISON still be visible to the eye? Hopefully. And on January 8, 2014, the comet will lie only 2° from Polaris — the North Star.
Could a Comet Hit Mars in 2014?
According to preliminary orbital prediction models, comet C/2013 A1 will buzz Mars on Oct. 19, 2014. The icy interloper is thought to originate from the Oort Cloud — a hypothetical region surrounding the solar system containing countless billions of cometary nuclei that were outcast from the primordial solar system billions of years ago.
According to calculations by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), close approach data suggests the comet is most likely to make a close pass of 0.0007 AU (that’s approximately 63,000 miles from the Martian surface). However, there’s one huge caveat.
Due to uncertainties in the observations — the comet has only been observed for 74 days (so far), so it’s difficult for astronomers to forecast the comet’s precise location in 20 months time — comet C/2013 A1 may fly past at a very safe distance of 0.008 AU (650,000 miles). But to the other extreme, its orbital pass could put Mars directly in its path. At time of Mars close approach (or impact), the comet will be barreling along at a breakneck speed of 35 miles per second (126,000 miles per hour).
Also, we don’t yet know how big comet C/2013 A1 is, but comets typically aren’t small. If it did hit, the impact could be a huge, global event. But the comet’s likely location in 2014 is also highly uncertain, so this is by no means a “sure thing” for Mars impact
see more, from discovery news
reposted from gaian’s internet stew