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Comet ISON, the predicted super comet of 2013, has now brightened to 10th magnitude and within the range of medium aperture telescopes. When discovered at the end of last year, the hype surrounding this possible "comet of the century" went into overdrive. It was predicted to reach an incredible magnitude -16, visible in daylight and be brighter than the full Moon, when close to perihelion in late November 2013.

At perihelion ISON will be only 0.01249 AU (1.87 million kilometres or 1.16 million miles) from the Sun. At such a small distance, there's a real possibility it might not even survive the hostile environment, disintegrating before reaching the other side.

What was also over looked in the popular press last year was that peak brightness occurs for just a few hours during daytime. And of course an object at magnitude -16, right next to our star, appears nowhere near as bright as might be expected. But anyway, it's still an exciting prospect and a potentially great spectacle over the next couple of months.

Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope on April 10, 2013 (NASA/ESA)

Recent estimates now suggest that the ISON will peak at about magnitude -7 or -8. On October 11th, the comet stood at magnitude +10.6 with an elongated coma, visible in 250mm (10-inch) or 200mm (8-inch) telescopes in the morning skies just before sunrise. Visually detecting a tail was more difficult. However, the comet and tail could be imaged with much smaller scopes.

ISON is expected to reach naked eye brightness about the middle of November and remain so until the end of December. During this time the best location to be is the Northern Hemisphere. It will be observable in the early morning sky towards the east throughout the brightening period. From the Southern Hemisphere, the condition is not so great with the comet remaining low down during this time.

The finder chart below shows the path of ISON from October 9th to October 29th as it moves through Leo. Also in Leo during this time in Mars and ISON will move eastwards towards Mars before overtaking it. On October 15th, ISON (mag. +10.2) will be about a degree north of Mars (mag. +1.5) and two degrees north of Regulus (α Leo - mag. +1.4). The latter two are about the same brightness and easily visible to the naked eye but the comet is much fainter (3000x) and probably requires at least a 100mm (4-inch) telescope to be seen; preferably a larger scope. Mars and Regulus do act as good pointers to locate ISON.

Comet ISON Finder Chart from October 9 to October 29, 2013

Comet ISON Finder Chart from October 9 to October 29, 2013 - pdf format

On October 25th, ISON is predicted to be at magnitude +9.2 and located 1.5 degrees south of three 10th magnitude Messier galaxies, M95, M96 and M105. The comet is a magnitude brighter than the galaxies but may appear similar in appearance, size and shape.

ISON remains in Leo for the remainder of October before moving into Virgo next month when the real fun begins!!

Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) Data (at epoch February 28. 2013)

NameC/2012 S1 (ISON)
TypeComet
ClassificationHyperbolic Comet
DiscovererVitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok using the ISON group of telescopes
Discovery dateSeptember 21, 2012
Aphelion (AU)unknown
Perihelion (AU)0.01249
Eccentricity1.000005
Orbital period (years)unknown
Inclination (degrees) 61.981
Longitude of ascending node (degrees)295.716
Perihelion November 28th, 2013
NotesSungrazing comet

Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) Data Table

DateRight AscensionDeclinationEstimated MagnitudeDistance from Earth (AU)Constellation
01 Oct 201309h 34m 35s17d 37m 29s11.32.151Leo
02 Oct 201309h 36m 43s17d 25m 01s11.22.121Leo
03 Oct 201309h 38m 54s17d 12m 12s11.22.092Leo
04 Oct 201309h 41m 07s16d 59m 02s11.12.062Leo
05 Oct 201309h 43m 23s16d 45m 30s11.02.032Leo
06 Oct 201309h 45m 41s16d 31m 34s10.92.003Leo
07 Oct 201309h 48m 02s16d 17m 14s10.91.973Leo
08 Oct 201309h 50m 26s16d 02m 27s10.81.943Leo
09 Oct 201309h 52m 52s15d 47m 14s10.71.913Leo
10 Oct 201309h 55m 22s15d 31m 31s10.61.883Leo
11 Oct 201309h 57m 55s15d 15m 18s10.61.853Leo
12 Oct 201310h 00m 32s14d 58m 33s10.51.823Leo
13 Oct 201310h 03m 12s14d 41m 14s10.41.793Leo
14 Oct 201310h 05m 56s14d 23m 20s10.31.762Leo
15 Oct 201310h 08m 45s14d 04m 46s10.21.732Leo
16 Oct 201310h 11m 38s13d 45m 33s10.11.702Leo
17 Oct 201310h 14m 35s13d 25m 37s10.01.672Leo
18 Oct 201310h 17m 37s13d 04m 55s9.91.642Leo
19 Oct 201310h 20m 45s12d 43m 25s9.81.611Leo
20 Oct 201310h 23m 58s12d 21m 04s9.71.581Leo
21 Oct 201310h 27m 17s11d 57m 48s9.61.551Leo
22 Oct 201310h 30m 42s11d 33m 34s9.51.521Leo
23 Oct 201310h 34m 14s11d 08m 18s9.41.491Leo
24 Oct 201310h 37m 53s10d 41m 57s9.31.462Leo
25 Oct 201310h 41m 39s10d 14m 25s9.21.432Leo
26 Oct 201310h 45m 34s09d 45m 38s9.11.402Leo
27 Oct 201310h 49m 37s09d 15m 31s9.01.373Leo
28 Oct 201310h 53m 49s08d 43m 59s8.91.344Leo
29 Oct 201310h 58m 12s08d 10m 56s8.71.315Leo
30 Oct 201311h 02m 44s07d 36m 16s8.61.286Leo
31 Oct 201311h 07m 28s06d 59m 53s8.51.258Leo
01 Nov 201311h 12m 24s06d 21m 39s8.31.230Leo
02 Nov 201311h 17m 33s05d 41m 28s8.21.202Leo
03 Nov 201311h 22m 56s04d 59m 13s8.11.175Leo
04 Nov 201311h 28m 33s04d 14m 46s7.91.148Leo
05 Nov 201311h 34m 27s03d 27m 58s7.81.122Leo
06 Nov 201311h 40m 37s02d 38m 44s7.61.096Virgo
07 Nov 201311h 47m 05s01d 46m 54s7.51.072Virgo
08 Nov 201311h 53m 53s00d 52m 22s7.31.047Virgo
09 Nov 201312h 01m 02s-00d 04m 59s7.11.024Virgo
10 Nov 201312h 08m 33s-01d 05m 14s7.01.002Virgo
11 Nov 201312h 16m 28s-02d 08m 26s6.80.980Virgo
12 Nov 201312h 24m 48s-03d 14m 38s6.60.960Virgo
13 Nov 201312h 33m 35s-04d 23m 48s6.40.941Virgo
14 Nov 201312h 42m 50s-05d 35m 52s6.20.924Virgo
15 Nov 201312h 52m 34s-06d 50m 42s6.00.908Virgo
16 Nov 201313h 02m 50s-08d 08m 02s5.80.894Virgo
17 Nov 201313h 13m 38s-09d 27m 35s5.60.881Virgo
18 Nov 201313h 25m 00s-10d 48m 53s5.40.871Virgo
19 Nov 201313h 36m 57s-12d 11m 24s5.10.864Virgo
20 Nov 201313h 49m 29s-13d 34m 26s4.80.858Virgo
21 Nov 201314h 02m 36s-14d 57m 12s4.60.856Virgo
22 Nov 201314h 16m 21s-16d 18m 46s4.20.857Virgo
23 Nov 201314h 30m 43s-17d 38m 06s3.90.861Libra
24 Nov 201314h 45m 44s-18d 54m 03s3.40.869Libra
25 Nov 201315h 01m 29s-20d 05m 16s2.90.882Libra
26 Nov 201315h 18m 06s-21d 10m 03s2.20.900Libra
27 Nov 201315h 36m 00s-22d 05m 35s1.10.924Libra
28 Nov 201315h 56m 31s-22d 43m 30s-0.90.960Scorpius
29 Nov 201316h 23m 17s-19d 52m 17s-4.10.976Scorpius
30 Nov 201316h 21m 22s-16d 20m 14s0.20.912Scorpius
01 Dec 201316h 19m 11s-13d 58m 52s1.60.868Scorpius
02 Dec 201316h 17m 23s-11d 55m 49s2.40.831Scorpius
03 Dec 201316h 15m 54s-10d 00m 41s2.90.798Scorpius
04 Dec 201316h 14m 39s-08d 09m 09s3.40.768Ophiuchus
05 Dec 201316h 13m 36s-06d 18m 51s3.70.740Ophiuchus
06 Dec 201316h 12m 44s-04d 28m 14s4.00.714Ophiuchus
07 Dec 201316h 12m 02s-02d 36m 10s4.20.690Serpens Caput
08 Dec 201316h 11m 27s00d 41m 45s4.40.667Serpens Caput
09 Dec 201316h 11m 00s01d 15m 45s4.60.644Serpens Caput
10 Dec 201316h 10m 41s03d 17m 02s4.70.623Serpens Caput
11 Dec 201316h 10m 27s05d 22m 41s4.90.603Serpens Caput
12 Dec 201316h 10m 20s07d 33m 18s5.00.584Serpens Caput
13 Dec 201316h 10m 19s09d 49m 24s5.10.566Serpens Caput
14 Dec 201316h 10m 24s12d 11m 29s5.20.549Serpens Caput
15 Dec 201316h 10m 34s14d 39m 59s5.30.532Serpens Caput
16 Dec 201316h 10m 51s17d 15m 19s5.30.517Hercules
17 Dec 201316h 11m 13s19d 57m 46s5.40.503Hercules
18 Dec 201316h 11m 41s22d 47m 33s5.50.489Hercules
19 Dec 201316h 12m 16s25d 44m 46s5.50.477Corona Borealis
20 Dec 201316h 12m 58s28d 49m 21s5.60.466Corona Borealis
21 Dec 201316h 13m 47s32d 01m 04s5.70.457Corona Borealis
22 Dec 201316h 14m 44s35d 19m 30s5.70.448Corona Borealis
23 Dec 201316h 15m 51s38d 43m 59s5.80.442Corona Borealis
24 Dec 201316h 17m 07s42d 13m 39s5.90.436Hercules
25 Dec 201316h 18m 36s45d 47m 25s5.90.432Hercules
26 Dec 201316h 20m 19s49d 24m 02s6.00.430Hercules
27 Dec 201316h 22m 19s53d 02m 04s6.10.429Draco
28 Dec 201316h 24m 41s56d 40m 01s6.20.430Draco
29 Dec 201316h 27m 31s60d 16m 21s6.30.433Draco
30 Dec 201316h 30m 57s63d 49m 32s6.40.437Draco
31 Dec 201316h 35m 13s67d 18m 09s6.50.442Draco