Nov 5 2013, 2:46am CST | by Sumayah Aamir
Comets are ephemeral objects that come and go. Maybe the most prominent one happens to be Halley’s Comet which passes by earth’s orbit every 75 years or so. The last time it appeared was in 1986 and the next time will be 2061. A similar factoid of astronomical trivia is Comet ISON.
Due to come sometime in the late days of November, the comet ISON is going to come very close to the sun’s surface. It will be visible from the earth to earthlings during both nighttime and daytime. The level of brightness of this comet ensures that. There have been various alarmist signals from certain superstitious quarters regarding the dangers it may pose planet earth. But November 28th is the anticipated date on which "the comet will make its closest brush with the sun, but before that, it could appear as a bright streak on the horizon before dawn if it lives up to some predicted expectations." So the United States will watch Comet ISON of the century on its closes approach on Thanksgiving Day. The comets will pass within 730,000 miles or 1.2 million kilometers of the solar surface.
However, comets can be viewable through out November. The current month can be called as a month of meteor showers. Just yesterday, on Monday November 4th night till dawn today, on November 5, the South Taurid meteor shower was on its peak. It was highly visible in the Northern Hemisphere.
Now another meteor shower called the The North Taurid is expected to go on peak exactly after a week. It means the night in between next Monday and Tuesday i.e. on November 11th into November 12th, the North Taurid shower will be on peak but "might be somewhat obscured by the waxing moon." But the South Taurid meteor shower was clearly visible under moonlight. "Both showers produce about 10 meteors per hour during peak," according to Space.com .
Leonids is yet another meteor shower, that will also go on its peak during the current month. It will be visible starting on the night of November 17th into the morning of November 18. Its a much faster shower as it will produce 40 meteors per hour. And observers on the ground can easily count these "if weather and light pollution" allows permits. A narrator Nancy Calo said, "This shower is the result of Earth’s annual passage through the dust trails left by Comet Tempel-Tuttle, which returns to the inner solar system every 33 years," in November skywatching video guide released by the Hubble Space Telescope science team.
But the fact of the matter is that it is probably a benign and natural event that will pass in a day’s time without causing any damage. In fact, the only damage it may cause is to fearful and anxious minds that will dread the arrival of Comet ISON like it was a doomsday device.
That it will graze the surface of the sun may cause it to literally explode. Whatever the case, the whole series of actions will be observed by millions of people very closely from earth. It will all be shown online in video form.
It is very rare that a shooting star or comet enters our range of vision as human beings. This time it will be a treat for all to feast their eyes upon in its marvelous heavenly glory. As Kant said “There are two things which fill the mind with awe; the celestial bodies in the sky and the moral law within!”
Also the National Science Foundation's Division of Astronomical Sciences is launching a Comet ISON Photo Contest for Amateur Astronomers along with Astronomy magazine and Discover magazine. The selected images of Comet ISON win cash prizes worth up to $2,500. Astronomy magazine will also publish these winning images. If you want to take part in this NSF Comet ISON photo contest, read more details here .
You can also watch a video demonstartion of "How to See Come ISON in November 2013 ."
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