If you are a keen sky observer, you would have definitely heard about Comet ISON, currently on its way towards the sun. Unfortunately, the media has been downright confusing.
It was described as ‘the comet of the century’ at first, calling it as bright as the full moon. Then there was the news that the comet was fizzling and could have possibly started to disintegrate.
Truth be told, it was never going to light up the night like the full moon, as peak brightness by the comet will be when it will be one degree from the sun, and in the middle of the day.
Even the dire predictions about the comet having started to disintegrate are also wrong. Recently, the Hubble telescope has shown it to be completely intact.
On November 28th, when the comet grazes past the sun, the comet’s night side will suddenly be exposed to an intense solar blast which could possibly lead to an amazing eruption of gas and dust.
The major point to note here is that the Comet ISON is definitely going to be a spectacular site through binoculars or a wide-field telescope. For a quick reference guide about when and where to look for Comet ISON you can read here.
There are two important things you should note before you start looking for the comet. It will brighten rapidly in the days just before Thanksgiving, i.e., November 28th, so there is no point trying to look for it with the naked eye right now, it is too faint. It will be best sighted a couple of weeks after November 28th, when it will be going away from the sun and towards the Earth.
Secondly, a dark sky and an unobstructed horizon is must for the best view. At its brightest, the comet ISON will be close to the sun and hence close to the horizon just before sunrise.