Comet ISON: Will it Be “Comet of the Century”?
Comet ISON was set to be the “comet of the century”, but with just two months to go before peak viewing, which will be Thanksgiving day in the U.S., some scientists say that the sizzle just won’t be there, according to space.com. However, some say that it will earn its title. We’ll have to wait a few weeks to find out who’s right, but what are the reasons behind each camp’s hypothesis?
Comet ISON will fly by at about 3/4 of a million miles within the surface of the sun. The comet was hidden by the sun for the bulk of the summer, and just began to come into view in the darker skies of August. The comet’s brightness seemed to fizzle at first, with some hoping that it would re-emerge after the summer brighter than before. It did emerge brighter, but it was still six times fainter than originally forcasted.
Astronomer Bruce Gary was the first to photograph ISON on August 12th, and he sides with those who say that the comet will be a big disappointment. “I’ve begun to lose interest in this comet which may never become visible to the unaided eye. I wonder why someone ever suggested that it could become the ‘comet of the century’.”
However, Karl Battams, astronomer with the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C., is more optomistic and sides with the camp that is holding out hope that the ISON could still earn “comet of the century” glory. “Certainly we’d love it to be a couple magnitudes brighter, but right now, it’s doing just fine. I’d say it’s still on course to become a very eye-catching object.”
Earlier last month, a consensus of reputable observers revealed the comet to be 600 times fainter than the dimmest star that can be observed with the naked eye and the comet’s head appeared to be about 1/30th the size of the moon. Since then the comet has nearly doubled in brightness. Of course, more time will be needed to see just how bright ISON will get.
Image via space.com