Ritchey: Looking upward: Comet ISON may provide eye-catching sight
Listen up, dear readers.
I’m about to give you a heads up to keep your heads up over the next several months. The word on the astronomy street is that Comet ISON, currently hanging out in Jupiter’s neighborhood, is barreling toward the sun and could provide stargazers one of the most spectacular astronomical displays in history. Still too faint to be seen with the naked eye at the present time, ISON will start to be visible with binoculars or small telescopes as soon as this August. By late October or early November, and lasting until January 2014, ISON will be in its full glory; some suggest that it could be as bright as the moon, meaning that it would even be visible in the daytime. Comets are notoriously unpredictable, however, so don’t be surprised if ISON isn’t as spectacular as promised. Regardless of whether it turns out to be a dud or a dandy, every comet is a fascinating phenomenon.
The comet is actually named C/2012 S1, a yawner of a name based on common convention, and it was discovered by a couple of Russian astronomers last September. When it was reported to the media, the press release read C/2012 S1 (ISON), which referred to the name of the comet and the organization where its discovery was made: the Russia-based International Scientific Optical Network, or ISON. The media misinterpreted the ISON designation as a nickname for the comet and reported it as such. The name stuck.
So stay tuned. As time grows closer, be on the lookout for information on ISON’s projected visibility, as well as where and when to look for the best viewing. One of the best websites to keep informed is www.space.com.
— Ritchey can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.