2013 set to be Earth’s brightest ever for comets

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2013 set to be Earth’s brightest ever for comets

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Star-gazers will be treated to the brightest comet ever seen from Earth this year.

Comet ISON, discovered by astronomers in September 2012, is forecast to appear in the Northern hemisphere sky on November 28 2013. By day it will be visible with the naked eye, while by night it’s expected to outshine a full moon.

Russians Artyom Novichonok and Vitali Nevski discovered ISON on September 21, 2012, using a 15.7 inch reflecting telescope at the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) located near Kislovodsk, Russia.

Since then astronomers have had time to plan for its ‘perihelion passage’, or the closest point to the sun on the comet’s passage. ISON (officially catalogued as C/2012 S1) will pay Earth a visit after this perihelion passage.

Although they will miss out on ISON, people in the Southern hemisphere will be able to enjoy Comet Pan-STARRS, which will be visible from January and reach its brightest in March. Pan-STARRS takes its name from the Hawaii-based telescope that discovered it in 2011.

Both comets are thought to have come from the Oort Cloud, a belt of frozen rock and ice that lies around our own Solar System.

In recent years, Comet Hale-Bopp (1997) and Comet McNaught (2007) have been visible from Earth.