Find comet Ison

Comet C/2012 S1 Ison: 14 Nov. 2013

For sure, comet C/2012 S1 Ison is the most observed object of this season. Not only astronomers are pointing their instruments there, but lot of people all around the globe are wishing to have a look.

Finding the comet is not difficult, at least it is not as people not involved in astronomy would think. Of course, until the comet is below the naked eye visibility, a telescope/pair of binoculars is needed, as well as a map to locate it among the stars. Once the comet will be (hopefully!) brighter and brighter, it will be obvious to find.

On 14. Nov. comet Ison was reported to be around mag. 6.0, this means it should be visible by naked eye from no light-polluted skies. This after the outburst recorded around that date and there are some chances it will show better and better the incoming days. On 23 Nov. the comet was estimated brighter than mag. 2.0.

Above is a star chart made with TheSkyX Pro, showing where Ison will be this month. It will cross the Virgo (the Maiden) constellation for most of the time, and between 17 and 18 Nov. will stay very close to Spica, the brightest star of Virgo, making very easy to find it.

While moving to Libra (the Scale), comet Ison will cross star fields with plenty of galaxies (this part of the sky, not covered by the starry and dusty Milky Way, is “transparent” enough to show many of them), while its angular distance from the Sun will reduce very fast, while the comet will approach its perihelion (28 Nov.). This will make its observation harder and harder: after Nov. 23, C/2012 S1 will be at less than 20 degrees of elongation from the Sun.

By that time, comet Ison will cross Libra and Scorpius (the Scorpion) and will prepare to appear in the evening twilight: how bright is – at the moment – just question of hope and speculation.

On 28 Nov., few hours before perihelion, comet Ison was estimated to be at mag. -3, based on SOHO’s LASCO C3 images from space.

Important Note: be VERY careful if you will attempt to look for comet ISON at daytime, while it ios close to the Sun. Observing the Sun even accidentally, by naked eye and any other not specific solar screen, can result in permanent damage of your eyes!