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Space Science

Newly Spotted Comet May Shine Among Brightest In History 100

Reader intellitech points to an article at National Geographic, from which he excerpts: "If astronomers' early predictions hold true, the holidays next year may hold a glowing gift for stargazers—a superbright comet, just discovered streaking near Saturn. Even with powerful telescopes, comet 2012 S1 (ISON) is now just a faint glow in the constellation Cancer. But the ball of ice and rocks might become visible to the naked eye for a few months in late 2013 and early 2014—perhaps outshining the moon, astronomers say. The comet is already remarkably bright, given how far it is from the sun, astronomer Raminder Singh Samra said. What's more, 2012 S1 seems to be following the path of the Great Comet of 1680, considered one of the most spectacular ever seen from Earth."
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Newly Spotted Comet May Shine Among Brightest In History

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Or however it goes !!

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @12:48AM (#41496869) Journal

    > asuperbright comet, just discovered streaking near Saturn

    Sweet -- look at the tail on that streaker!

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Uh, no. You're looking at Uranus
    • Last time this happened, Jesus came down the sky and was instantly stalked down by the 3 kings who offered jewels to him. Honestly, this might be the same comet that the Bible is describing as the brightest star, 3 days before the birth of Jesus.
  • Whats more (Score:5, Funny)

    by Osgeld ( 1900440 ) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @12:50AM (#41496883)

    "What's more, 2012 S1 seems to be following the path of the Great Comet of 1680, considered one of the most spectacular ever seen from Earth."

    got a link? no? []

    jeez, if your going to reference something in an article take 2 seconds to post a link

    • Re:Whats more (Score:5, Informative)

      by yotto ( 590067 ) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @10:13AM (#41498547) Homepage

      I love clicking on a link that purports to be informative, when I did nothing wrong myself, and be presented with a page that tells me to run javascript.

      How about an actual link? []
      or even better []

    • Why would you need a link to tell you about the Great Comet of 1680? Do you not consider yourself to be an educated person?
      • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

        its common to post your references in material

        • Citations, please, for your assertion that it is common to detail your references.

          I thought that it was common to not post references to things which are common knowledge. Of course, your idea of "common knowledge" may differ from mine. I look at the site's byline ("news for nerds") and expect to be typing to nerds with a reasonable degree of knowledge about the sciences.

          • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

            Sorry that I am not an expert in your field of interest, and sorry I am not a jack of all trades, master of none nerd, with entire encyclopedias memorized... and that you have nothing better to do with your life.

    • This is timely. I just finished reading Lucifer's Hammer, a book about a massive comet strike. Interesting book. I found it intriguing how much of the book was still applicable despite its age.
  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @12:55AM (#41496897)

    I'm old enough to have heard this sort of speculation about Kohoutek as well.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 29, 2012 @01:17AM (#41496971)

      I'm old enough to have heard this sort of speculation about Kohoutek [] as well.

      That's fair enough, science hasn't changed since 1973. I believe that history will ultimately show that the decline of science started with the break-up of The Doors [], though others contend that it was the rise of The Butts Band []. Still others mark 1973 as the beginning of the end of civilisation itself [], implying that the impact of the break-up of The Doors created tear in the fabric of human social history that was not simply limited to the decline of scientific endeavour.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 29, 2012 @01:45AM (#41497037)

      I'm old enough to remember Comet Bennett, in the early winter of 1970. I walked to school every morning, keeping my eye fixed on it, much to the irritation of the drivers that I somewhat randomly shared the roads with.
          I had a 4.5" Newtonian back home; but telescopes are not the best means of looking at comets. A decent pair of 7x50 binoculars are much better.
          I'm looking forward to this one. I took some good pix of McNaught, just at sunset, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. This time I might do better.

      • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @02:07AM (#41497097) Journal
        I'm just old enough to remember seeing Halley's Comet in '86 and telling my parents I'd be too old to remember the first sighting when it came back in 2061.

        And I remember the next day at school when the teacher asked if everyone saw the comet, and one person proudly announced that he watched it on TV. That was the first time I said the word "dumbass" in public. I have a terrible feeling that the percentage of kids who tell the class they saw the comet on TV (or "YouTwitFace" -- the future conglomerate of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook) will be much higher the next time around.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          YouTwitFace is now my official name for social networks. Thanks.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            For years my mother has been calling them all FaceTube.

            • Sorry about replying to ACs but the IT crowd has already named them Friend face. []
              • Which just proves that the IT crowd is as funny as a bunch of screenwriters who know nothing about networking technology can make a show about the geeks who love and maintain it.....

                Both of the AC's names are better than "friend face" which has all of the edginess, humor, and social relevance of a bowl of oatmeal.

    • So, what's the deal? Someone want to explain? My understanding of Kohoutek is limited to old "Snoopy" cartoons.
      • Kohoutek was hyped to be very spectacular . . . folks were even wishfully speculating that it might have been the Three Wise Men Jesus Birthday Star.

        But it fizzled out. The Snoopy comics were probably more interesting.

      • Kohoutek was supposed to be a brilliant comet once it emerged from behind the sun on the outward leg of the orbit. What came out was what in pyrotechnic terms was a damp squib.

        One theory I heard posted about was that the comet's trajectory came too close to the sun and the heat actually burned the surface and fused it into a organic mess, like tar, and it was unable to vent as it should have. Another was that it broke up behind the sun.

        As with all things in Yankee culture, the name became a brand name for

        • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

          It depended on where you were. I was in Thailand, and it was so bright there that it and the moon were all you could see in the western sky until they set. Perhaps it's because Thailand is so close to the equator?

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      I remember them saying the same thing about Haley's comet too. I've got the original article out of either Time or OMNI on it saying that it'll be so bright it'll outshine the moon as well. I remember seeing it as a kid, it looked like a slow moving satellite.

      • Which apparition were you referring to? The 1982 one or the 1909 one? Both are just about credible.
  • Kohoutek (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mbone ( 558574 ) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @12:58AM (#41496905)

    I am also old enough to remember the speculation about Kohoutek.

    It is notoriously hard to predict the brightness of "new" comets, as you know nothing about their history.

    • Re:Kohoutek (Score:4, Funny)

      by rs79 ( 71822 ) <> on Saturday September 29, 2012 @02:17AM (#41497117) Homepage

      I'm old enough to remember suggesting to Halley "hey, try looking over there."

    • by Olix ( 812847 )
      That's interesting: Do you think that 'It is notoriously hard to predict the brightness of "new" comets' because of Kokoutek?
      • No. The "it's notoriously hard to predict the brightness of new comets" meme predates Kohoutek by some few decades.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by enilnomi ( 797821 )

        "Yeah. Look," Harvey said, "can you name one newsman who lost his reputation because of Kahoutek?" He nodded at the puzzled look that got. "Right. None. No chance. The public blamed the astronomers for blowing it all out of proportion. Nobody blamed the news people."

        "Why should they? You were quoting the astronomers."

        "Half the time," Harvey agreed. "But we quoted the ones who said exciting things. Two interviews. One man says Kahoutek is going to be the Big Christmas Comet. Another says, well, it's going to

  • by Mister Liberty ( 769145 ) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @01:11AM (#41496943)

    For starters, 2013 minus 2000 equals 13.

    • by lxs ( 131946 )

      It's Hale-Bopp all over again.
      (Mental note: Buy a pair of purple Nikes for everyone in the commune.)

  • you will see bright flashes in the sky just as predicted

    iran and israel bombing each other

  • Wonder when (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kiriath ( 2670145 ) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @01:52AM (#41497065)

    All the nutcases will be busting out the Kool-aid

  • []

    But seriously, this is going to be cool.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Pardon my ignorance, but given the dates this could have passed around 10 AD. Is there any conjecture towards this being the star of Bethlehem?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Never mind. []
      "Because the orbits of the two comets are similar doesn’t necessarily mean that the 1680 comet is the same as C/2012 S1 (ISON). It’s more likely a fragment of that comet. The orbital period of the 1680 comet is somewhere around 9,000-10,000 years, so the last time it was near Earth was long before the birth of Christ."

    • by maxwell demon ( 590494 ) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @06:19AM (#41497745) Journal

      10 AD is outside the range of dates in which the birth of Jesus could have happened. At that time, Herod was already dead for over a decade.

      If you are interested in a good overview on the theories about the star of Bethlehem, I've found this page [] quite informative.

      • It's much easier to believe that the mythology was cribbed from other sources or made up out of whole cloth.

        That goes for the rest of the miraculous happenings too. It's almost as if someone wanted to hijack the moral teachings and substitute idol-worship. Even today the latter seems far more popular than the former.

        • At the time the texts in question had been written, the past they are speaking about wasn't yet too far away, so they had to get the historical facts right, or instead of convincing people, they would have been laughed away like "Oh, what? Tiberius started a census, but Herod tried to kill your Jesus afterwards? Herod was long dead when Tiberius got co-emperor! Why should I believe the rest of your story if you start with such a nonsense?" The best way to make sure you get no errors which someone might spot

  • I think we must adapt our calendars to make it arrive on 2012/12/21, don't you think ?

  • In 1680 (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 29, 2012 @03:52AM (#41497341)

    there was no light pollution. You could actually see the Milky Way and even dim comets would stand out in the night sky.

    Now you can barely spot the full moon anywhere outside North Korea.

    • Or, you know, the 99.9% of the world that's nowhere near major cities. Greetings from the Scottish Highlands, the night sky is really quite stunning here.
    • I can see the milky way (if not very clearly), living in a town of 15K only 30 miles from a big city. You really don't have to be in the middle of nowhere for a decent sky, just get out of the big city.
      • You really don't have to be in the middle of nowhere for a decent sky, just get out of the big city.

        My rule of thumb : if you've got a 3G mobile phone signal, you're too close to either a city or a major road.

    • by AlecC ( 512609 )

      I saw Comet Hale Bopp quite clearly from beside a pool in a Las Vegas hotel, surely one of the most light polluted places in the world. I saw it much more clearly from my home in the English countryside, but a good comet can get through a lot of pollution.

    • Now you can barely spot the full moon anywhere outside North Korea.

      I can spot the full moon quite fine. Indeed, even when the moon is almost gone, I can see it quite well. And I'm living in a place with no lack of light pollution. I guess you know the sky only as seen from inside a big city, where there's not only lots of light pollution, but also enough of regular pollution which both dims the light from the sky and increases the effect of the light pollution by scattering back much more light than relatively clean air would.

      However you're right that light pollution makes

  • the coming of dragons
  • just discovered streaking near Saturn.

    Somebody hand it an overcoat...

  • Is there a site that lists viewing times/directions based on my location?
    Should I look near saturn?

    • Try looking up.

      At night.

      • Ah, got to love the snark. You think you're smart, but you're actually being obtuse. Happens to me ALL the time. I think jehanBUNCHOFNUMBERS wants to see the comet NOW, so s/he needs some orbital data or an ephemeris. Luckily amateur astronomers have access to The Google, and he'll find the comet despite your and my snarking.
    • The descriptions so far are a bit vague to give precise directions. Because comets are shedding appreciable mass, which can have a rocket effect on the trajectory, and they're typically tumbling irregularly, and they're warming up (irregularly, under the influence of both previous effects) then this early in an apparition, it's not really worthwhile making close predictions of the comet's path through the solar system, and thus of it's track across the night sky.

      The current magnitude (18.8) is several mill

    • Check this site [] every few months until late 2013. They are great for new and charts.
  • []

    An added bonus is that the comet passes very close to Mars in early October 2013 and could potentially be observed by the sensitive Mast Cameras on the rover Curiosity.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun