WHEN VISIBLE: BEFORE DAWN
SMALL TELESCOPE AT START OF MONTH
BINOCULARS BY MONTH’S END
At some point during October Comet ISON should break through the Binocular Barrier, and become visible to the general public (with a little work!). This is because October is when Comet ISON’s magnitude should climb past 10, then 9 and then 8 too, and will end the month hovering around the 7.5 mark, relatively close to naked eye magnitude of 6.
I think that at this point ISON will finally begin to get interesting to the average amateur astronomer with a small telescope, and to that famous “man or woman in the street” who doesn’t have a telescope but does have a pair of binoculars in the garage or stuffed in a corner of that cupboard under the stairs. How long its tail will be by then is anyone’s guess, but if it is sporting a noticeable tail in binoculars that will be a good sign for the weeks ahead. If it doesn’t, well, we’ll just have to cross our fingers that it gets its act together and starts to grow a tail soon…
During October Comet ISON will be shining amongst and drifting through the stars of the “Sickle” of Leo. This is an arrangement of stars which looks like, as its nickname suggests, a sickle, but others think it looks more like either a back to front question mark or a fish hook. Whatever it reminds you of, ISON will be moving through it during October, and will be snuggling up to the planet Mars during this month. No doubt astrophotographers around the world will be filling their cameras’ memory cards with images of the comet and the Red Planet shining close together at this time, and you should give it a try too…
Again, during October Comet ISON will be a morning object, and these charts are all drawn for approximately 4am, and show the view looking roughly to the east.
BY the end of October Comet ISON’s magnitude could reach 7.6. Another few weeks and it should reach naked eye brightness.