Comet ISON's photo is so good it's almost unreal

Illustration for article titled Comet ISONs photo is so good its almost unreal

Mike Hankey has captured this extraordinary photo of the comet ISON, which is experiencing some surprising activity as it approaches the Sun. It's so perfect it seems unreal. ISON was discovered only a year ago and it's now observable in the night sky.

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Hankey took this photo with a 60 second exposure.

Illustration for article titled Comet ISONs photo is so good its almost unreal
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According to Pablo Santos Sanz—of the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalucia—ISON has experienced an impressive fifteen-fold increase on the sublimation of hydrocyanic acid and water in the last 48 hours.

Scientists don't know exactly why this explosive reaction has occurred. One of the theories, according to Santos Sanz, is that the comet's rotation axis is more or less aligned with its direction towards the sun, so it's getting a lot of solar radiation.

Illustration for article titled Comet ISONs photo is so good its almost unreal

An image of the comet by the Observatio de Sierra Nevada, Spain.

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Here's the before and after the explosion, by Juano González Díaz

If you live outside of a city, you can see ISON in the sky now with your naked eye. With good binoculars, you will be able to see it clearly. Just wake up early (around 4:30am or so) and look for Mercury. Ison should be above it, to the right.

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DISCUSSION

boilerdam2
boilerdam2

I saw ISON & Lovejoy last weekend. Lovejoy was almost 3x brighter than ISON but was letting a third of media attention :) There are 4 comets in line in the pre-dawn sky. Start from Jupiter, coz it's the brightest in the night sky. Last week, it was right above, at the very top of the sky. Then, work your way down to the horizon in the East. You'll hit Lovejoy (right outside constellation Cancer and almost within the beehive cluster), then Mars, then ISON (below Mars and slightly to the right of the imaginary line you're following from Jupiter), then comets 2P/Encke & C/2012 X1 Linear. All lie more or less in a straight line. Weirdly enough, they were in order (top-bottom) in the exact order of brightness! Lovejoy>ISON>Encke>Linear. I saw this in the Santa Ana hills outside Irvine with my 15x70 binoculars.

This sudden burst should put ISON closer to it's predicted max brightness by Thanksgiving. I'll try and image it this weekend if I can find a darker area in the hills.