Brighter than The Moon!

I know I know.. two posts in less than 2 days is a lot to read, but this one is something I just discovered myself not even 10 minutes ago (relative to when I typed this out.. 1125hrs EST on October 31st 2012).This is an important one though, get your Android, iPhone and lolberry out and make a new calendar entry for November 25th 2013 at 3AM EST. Set the alarm to wake you up, throw on a jacket and head outside. Hopefully it’s a clear sky because when you look up, you’ll see a comet so bright, it will outshine the moon.

Hale-Bopp Comet circa 1997, unaided aka. “naked eye”
Credit: Kazuhiro Seto

Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) is currently about 1 billion KM away from us right now, about the same distance that the halfway point is between Jupiter and Saturn. You can actually see this comet now, if you have the right equipment as stated below (those that understand this will know what it means.. if you don’t understand it, don’t worry)

8″+ Telescope – Look now – | T:2013 Nov.28:87 | e=0.99 | Peri.=345.56 | q=0.012 AU | Incl=62.36 |
Binoculars – Late Summer 2013 to Late September 2013 – Do not view this object through binoculars after Sept 2013 without proper eye protection!
Unaided Eye – Late November 2013 to Early January 2014 – Do not view this object through binoculars without proper eye protection!
Disappearing around Late January 2014

Now, the comet is expected to have a magnitude of -16 when it’s visible to the naked eye on Earth, which would place it brighter than the moon, which has a measly -13. What does that mean in normal speak? It means it will be visible during day light. It wont over-power the sun, but you will be able to see it in the sky at Noon, and during the night sky. It will overpower the moon’s lights however, as the moon is significantly less bright than the sun in comparison. In fact, the moon itself doesn’t emit light, it reflects it. More on that another time, however.

For a full list of magnitude of objects in the night sky, there’s no better place to ask than Harvard, right? The Astronomical Magnitude Scale

Jeff Wilton

Jeff is the founder and owner of Everyday Science Stuff. ESS is a one man operation, with the core belief that all education should be served without crippling debt tuition, without revenue generating ads and without any restrictions of any kind such as paywalls, forced login and account creations, geographical restrictions, and so on.

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2 Responses

  1. Brian Senchak says:

    Jeff – Do you know of any graphic displaying the location of the Comet during naked eye visibility? I know you mentioned the northern sky, but I want, no NEED, to make sure I can see this! (Location: Toronto)

    • Jeff says:

      East! Look East!

      Extend your arm straight out at 90°, aimed towards Libra constellation. Clench your fist, and to the right of your fist (Eastern direction), and up a bit will be Saturn and Mercury. Comet ISON will be passing in a straight line at about 70° across the sky.

      I’m writing an article right now for the front page with some updated details on this bad boy, should be out later today or tomorrow!

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