28 November 2013

Comet ISON at Perihelion on Thanksgiving Day 2013

Today is the big day when ISON flies by the Sun ("perihelion"), and all eyes are on NASA's SOHO spacecraft that is watching the event first-hand.

For up-to-the-minute web resources, I recommend the following sites.

Google Hangout with NASA
Sky & Telescope
NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign

As of 7:00 am pacific time, it seems that the brightness of Comet ISON dropped somewhat, as reported on Spaceweather.com and Sky & Telescope.

There is concern that the very active Sun could release a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) as ISON is at closest approach and this would be a very substantial threat to ISON's survival.

As of 8:30 am pacific time, there is speculation that the brightness is falling rapidly indicating that the comet is considerably vaporized and might not survive perihelion.

As of 10:00 pm pacific time, it's possible that a small part of the comet remains intact, but overall it seems that the comet has been mostly decimated in the trip around the Sun.

As of November 30, it looks like Comet ISON has really disintegrated. Very sad indeed. But it was a fun to have all of the excitement and close watching of this rare event. Here's to the next big comet headed our way!

26 November 2013

KGO TV 7 News Feature - Nov 26, 2013

I did a feature story on Channel 7 Evening News today with Wayne Freedman on Comet ISON. Click here to view.

KFOG Broadcast - Nov 26, 2013

Much discussion about Comet ISON and related 'cosmic' topics with Greg and Mudd on the KFOG Morning Show. Click here to listen. 

24 November 2013

KGO Broadcast - November 24, 2013

Today's show on KGO featured a lengthly discussion about Comet ISON, asteroids, space travel and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Click here to listen.

23 November 2013

Planets and Comet ISON

Lately while trying to view Comet ISON, I have been up early looking at the sky and enjoying the view to the east as stars and planets emerge from their sojourn around the Sun and start their trek across the sky. Saturn had been an evening sky object in the summer, disappeared from view in early fall, and is now arriving in the morning sky, with fleet-footed Mercury keeping it company.

These two planets are just barely visible this week in the glare of the Sun's early light, and are helpful markers in the quest to find Comet ISON. However, as ISON races toward its close encounter with the Sun on Thanksgiving day, it is pretty much out of sight, lost in the sunlight that bathes the eastern horizon.

15 November 2013

Leonid Meteor Shower 2013 + Comet ISON

Comet ISON in Virgo
The Leonids peak this weekend, a lovely annual shower that is the result of a periodic comet that has left a field of debris that is 'bumped into' by the Earth. Like all meteor showers, the Leonids are best viewed after midnight, and can appear almost anywhere in the sky. Like all meteor showers, the best view is under a dark sky away from city lights. Unfortunately we have a full Moon this year for the Leonids, and that means that even in dark conditions, the bright light of the Moon will wash out many of the meteors. So although this is not the best year for this particular shower, there is a bonus: if you get up early to see the meteor shower, you will also get a good look at Comet ISON, which is passing through the constellation Virgo on its way toward the November 28th rendezvous with the Sun.  A good bet is to get up early on Sunday November 17th and enjoy a view of Comet ISON as it passes near the bright star Spica, and watch for a few meteors in the process. Finder chart here, or just use the map on the right. I wish you clear skies and good viewing!

Image courtesy EarthSky.

06 November 2013

Comets are all around us!

November 2013 is becoming Comet Month, with Comet ISON on its way toward the Sun, and now Comet Lovejoy making a nice appearance in the morning sky as well.

Comet Lovejoy
Comet Lovejoy is well positioned in the eastern sky in the early morning hours this week, with the famous Beehive Cluster as your guidepost. This article on EarthSky has a lot of helpful information for finding the Beehive and therefore Comet Lovejoy this week. I'll take a look in the morning and report what I can see.

Astro Bob's blog has some good information about Lovejoy as well. Get out your binoculars!