This track across our sky’s dome shows the most intriguing comet of 2013 – comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) – from its discovery in December 2012 until October 2013.
During these months, Comet ISON tracks through the constellations Gemini, Cancer, and Leo as it falls toward the sun. Its closest point to the sun will be November 28, 2013. Look here for a monthly viewing guide for Comet ISON.
When it was discovered in late 2012, this comet appeared unusually active for its distance from the sun. Many believed at that time that ISON could rank as one of the brightest comets in decades when it makes its close approach to the sun in late November. More recently, the comet has not appeared as bright as earlier models suggested it would be by now. Will it become a very bright comet later this year? Will it even be visible to the eye alone? Comets are notoriously unpredictable, and, at this point, no one can say.
The animation below, also from NASA, shows the comet’s approach and departure from the inner solar system from various perspectives.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.