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Local Astronomer Weighs In on 'Comet of the Century'

Sep 08, 2013 -- 2:31am
By: Laura-Jane Hatcher (WRGA News)
It’s being lauded as the ‘Comet of the Century,’ and many astronomers, including Tellus Science Museum’s David Dundee, hope Comet ISON will live up to its stellar hype.  
According to NASA, the Sun-grazing comet, first discovered in 2012, is stopping by Mars currently before its trajectory sends it speeding close to Earth sometime in October. Astronomers have predicted ISON has the potential to be as bright as the moon as it zips by, but the big cosmic show could come around Thanksgiving, Tellus’ Dundee says, when the comet will trail dangerously close to the Sun.  
“How the comet will react to the heat and being so close to the stress and gravity of the sun is sort of a question mark. It could be the comet will destroy itself, and then it’s done,” Dundee says. “But, if it survives its trip around the Sun, then in December, it comes back out and passes by the Earth---it could be very, very bright. It could have a huge tail. 
If it survives and it’s bright, we’ll be able to follow the comet quite easily until mid-January.” 
The best time to view ISON will be with a telescope or binoculars in the pre-dawn sky in October. In mid-November, there is a chance you’ll be able to see ISON with the naked eye. 
Or, you could see little to nothing at all. According to Dundee, comets are notoriously unpredictable, but astronomers should know more about ISON’s visibility by October 1st.  

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