Back in March, sky watchers were treated to views of the bright comet PANSTARRS, an event we covered extensively in our 2013 edition of the Farmers’ Almanac.
Months after that edition went to press, and weeks after its retail release last September, astronomers at the International Scientific Optical Network in Russia discovered a new comet, C/2012 S1 or simply ISON, heading toward the Sun.
ISON emerged from behind the Sun in August, and was bright enough to be visible through small telescopes or binoculars. It is expected to become visible to the naked eye by late October or early November, and remain so until mid-January 2014.
In October, the comet will pass through the constellation Leo, near its brightest star Regulus. It will then pass near Mars in the night sky. These brighter objects should make it easy to locate.
The comet will reach its perihelion on November 28, at which time it is expected to be extremely bright, possibly brighter than the full Moon.
It is extremely difficult to predict the brightness of a comet, especially so far in advance. Complicating the issue is the possibility that the comet’s close pass around the Sun will destroy it. If it does survive, though, it should put on quite a show.
Look to the western sky just after sunset during late November and early December!