Prepare to be amazed by the Great Comet Nevski-Novichonok in 2013
Perhaps the best of all time!
Credit: javrsmithComets are some of the most fascinating natural features in the universe. They suddenly burst into view, captivating everyone's attention for a short time before they disappear. In ages past, people could not understand what was happening. In 2013, Comet Nevski-Novichonok visits the inner solar system may become the greatest comet ever.
The great comets caused widespread concern in ancient times. Luckily, no terrible catastrophes were caused by comets, despite fears of the observers. There was a near disaster, however, in 1908. One comet struck Earth and laid waste to a vast section of unpopulated Siberia at the Tunguska River.
Had the comet struck a populated area, the event would have been far different.
Great comets are those that are visible to most everyone using their own eyes, unaided by optical aids such as telescopes. The last one to be seen from Earth was the spectacular Hale-Bopp comet in 1995-97. This comet was bright and easily seen, even from well lit cities. Other great comets have not been as prominent. Halley visited in 1986 and was expected to be very bright. Previous visits had been incredibly spectacular. Alas, the 1986 visit was not very impressive.
Credit: NASAThe 2013 visit of Comet Nevski-Novichonok promises to be fantastic for comet watchers. Two comets will approach Earth, both of which will be impressive. In fact, the second one might be one of the best astronomical events of all time. This is due to how close the comets, especially the second one, comes to to Sun. When they approach the sun, dust and gas is driven off, forming a long tail. This is what makes comets so spectacular. The tail can stretch for vast distances across the sky, as viewed by people on the ground. The tail reflects sunlight which is what we see. If a comet comes close to the sun, more material is driven off which makes the tail longer and brighter. Comet composition is also a factor. If it is make up of more ice and less rock, even more material is driven off by the sun. The process is quite variable. Some comets that come near the
sun are very rocky. These have short tails and they remain difficult to see. Others are made up of more ice which produces the biggest, and brightest tails.
Comet Nevski-Novichonok, originally known as C/2012 S1 (ISON), is poised to become perhaps the most spectacular comet in the entire history of mankind. The comet was discovered in September 2012 while it was still a great distance away from the sun. When the orbit was calculated, it was discovered that the comet would approach within 2 million miles of the sun. This is a very small amount of separation. Comet Halley was several times farther from the sun in 1986. In addition, this comet will also very close to the Earth. It comes even closer to the planet Mars but of course there will be no people there to view. The Mars Curiosity planet explorer will be in a position to view the comet, of course. It remains to be seen whether Curiosity is capable of viewing the comet and even if it the conditions allow a view at all.
The big show will be for people located on Earth. Comet Nevski-Novichonok swings by the Earth, (and Mars), before it nears the sun. Known as Nevski-Novichonok in honor of the discoverers, the comet is best towards late November but dedicated people will be able to view the comet well before that. In fact, astronomers are already tracking the comet now, watching for any signs of change. These early observations are important as they allow astronomers to improve the understanding of the comet. The comet is expected to brighten as it approaches the sun. If it is a normal comet, it will brighten dramatically at the closest approach to the sun. If it doesn't brighten, it would mean that the comet is made up of more rock and dust rather than ice. Astronomers also view the comet in order to determine the exact composition of elements. Some comets give off sodium and other materials. Analysis of comets is an exciting field due to the scarcity of comets to study. While there are likely billions of comets in the solar system, most are extremely far away and are essentially unable to be studied.
Credit: Max WolfIn 2013, astronomers are lucky to have two great comets approaching the Earth. In March, the first one comes near. It will brighten as it nears the sun and should be easily viewed by people at night. It will be visible without optical aids. As such, it will be termed a "naked-eye" comet, meaning that any person will be able to see it without using a telescope or binoculars. Note that it will be more or less difficult to see the naked-eye comets, depending on the location of the viewer. Those living in large cities, such as New York or Tokyo, will have a harder time seeing it. City lights will obscure the view. Those living in the countryside will often be able to see the comets easier. Those living in the cities should take trips to the countryside in order to maximize their comet viewing experience.
It is the second comet of 2013, Comet Nevski-Novichonok, (C/2012 S1 (ISON)), in November, which will be the one people talk about. This one will be spectacular. Since it comes so close to the sun, the amount of material driven off to form the tail should be significant. If the comet is composed of a lot of ice, the material will be diffuse and well illuminated by sunlight. These factors work together to improve the visibility of the comet. It will be a naked-eye comet for sure. Will it be incredibly spectacular? It just might be. In fact, early predictions of the eventual brightness indicate that it may outshine the moon in the night sky. If so, the comet will be one of only a few that have ever been that bright. It will also be one of the most spectacular natural things to ever be seen in the sky. If the brightness is as great as predicted, it will certainly be a comet to be remembered. Anyone viewing it in 2013 will remember the comet for the rest of their life. This comet also arrives at a time when astronomers have fantastic study instruments available. Practically every telescope and camera will be pointed at the comet.
Credit: NASA2013 will be a year for comets likely like no other year in the history of mankind. The first one approaches in March. It will be quite spectacular. In fact, were it not for the November 2013 comet, this one might have been one of the most memorable comets in history. As it is, March 2013 is but a warm-up to the main event. The Nevski-Novichonok comet of November 2013 is likely to be the most talked about, spectacular comet in history. In fact, this comet's visit may never be surpassed.