Excitement is already beginning to mount as an ice ball the size of a mountain and dubbed the “comet of the century” steadily makes its way towards the inner solar system.
If it lives up to its billing the 3 miles (5 km) across Comet ISON will approach within 730,000 miles of the sun on November 28th, and appear even brighter than the full moon. It is believed that at its brightest the comet will also be visible in the daytime. Nevertheless, comets are notoriously fickle beasts, and the possibility exists that the spectacular comet could just as easily fizzle out during its perihelion passage.
All being well, however, the comet will pass through the constellation Leo in October, and the constellation Virgo in November before making its closest approach to the Earth at 39.9 million miles (64.2 million kms) on 26th December. Comet Ison will then be visible to the naked eye up until early January 2014, with a meteor shower potentially possible when Earth passes near the orbit of the departing comet on January 14th and 15th.
Comet ISON was first discovered last year using a 16 inch reflector at the International Scientific Optical Network in Russia. The 3 miles across comet with a tail more than 57,000 miles (92,000 km) long is currently believed to be somewhere near Saturn as it heads towards the sun.