WHEN VISIBLE: PRE-DAWN SKY
THROUGH: LARGE TELESCOPES
Many people are hoping to get their first view of Comet ISON during AUGUST, but I think it will still be too close to the Sun, at least in the early part of the month, for that. But later in the month astronomers with large telescopes might be able to pick it up, depending on how bright it is, obviously. It will not be visible to the naked eye, or even through binoculars.
Seeing ISON in August will mean getting up early or staying up late, because it won’t be visible until just before dawn. In fact, ISON will be a pre-dawn object until it rounds the Sun on November 28th/29th, so I hope you’re ready for some early mornings or late nights…!
By August 30th the comet should be shining at magnitude* 12, still incredibly faint.
* “Magnitude” is the term astronomers use to describe an object’s brightness. Just to be awkward, on the magnitude scale very bright objects like the Sun and Moon have negative magnitudes, while very faint objects, like stars and galaxies – and faraway comets – have positive magnitudes. The Sun has a magnitude of -26, while the Full Moon is magnitude -12. The faintest stars the naked eye can see on a Moon-free night, from a dark sky site, are magnitude +6. So, if Comet ISON is “shining” at magnitude +12 (we don’t usually use the + symbol) that’s obviously incredibly faint.