JULY 2013

Because there’s been a very unusual spell of good weather here in the UK recently, I’m being asked a lot “Where’s this comet then? Can I see it yet?

Simple answer: no. You can’t.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a mega-rich “amateur astronomer” with a computerised 16″ telescope sitting under a dome in the middle of the Arizona desert, or a humble “skywatcher” with a simple 4″ reflector you set up in your garden, ISON is not visible at the moment. At least, not from here on Earth. It is too close to the Sun in the sky, lost in the Sun’s blinding glare, and we won’t get a chance to see it until it emerges from that glare and starts to move into a darker sky again.

If you could somehow fly away from Earth and look down on our solar system from high above, you;d be able to appreciate why ISON is so hard to spot at the moment. From Earth, the comet and the Sun are almost in line…

position ss 2

And that means we currently have this view from here on Earth…

July 26 pm b

Now you will understand why ISON is not visible at the moment. But ISON is moving away from the Sun, very slowly, and within a matter of weeks we – and by “we” I obviously mean “amateurs with huge telescopes, and the world’s largest observatories” – should be able to see it, and then we’ll be able to start to piece together a picture of what it might do later in the year, when it rounds the Sun.

 

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