From the very depths of our Solar System, the neighborhood of planet Earth.....from what may be a dark and frozen distance of five trillion miles...... A Comet Is Coming. Perhaps fresh from the scientifically-named Oort Cloud of debris that make up the infamous comets of antiquity, a visitor has been steadily approaching the inner sanctum of our Solar System, just having passed the orbit of the planet Mars, a distance of some 100 million miles away. As this visitor - Comet ISON, c2012 S1 - approaches it is speeding up and will achieve speeds in excess of 425,000 miles per hour in late November as it slingshots past the Sun and Earth and then heads back out into space perhaps to return at a future date for our children and grandchildren.
But Comet ISON is a "fresh comet", one that we believe has not been ever subjected to the Sun's violent outbursts and radiation; if so, scientists believe that stargazers around the world are in for an incredible show in late November and throughout December as the comet swings very close to Earth. Because it is fresh, and composed of volatile frozen gases and rare elements, it is possible that Comet ISON may be the best comet in many of our lifetimes. So spectacular, some say, the it is quite possible that ISON may be actually seen naked eye in broad daylight if one carefully blocks the sun with a thumb, this forecast for the last week in November 2013.
At this time, Comet ISON is covering more than 1.25 million miles every day as it is pulled in by the gravity of the sun to its close approach on November 28, 2013. After that, the comet will climb slowly each morning in the early pre-dawn skies until Christmastime, when Comet ISON is likely to be a bright naked eye comet overhead in the evening, filling the northern sky with a splendid tail, the very image that brought myth, mythology and fear to ancient people worldwide. But, predicting the performance of a comet is far less accurate than predicting the outcome of an honest horse race. We will really not know for sure until the comet comes in for its close approach. With that in mind, the public is invited to a very special presentation: "A Comet Is Coming....." presented by Dr. P. Clay Sherrod of the Arkansas Sky Observatories network as part of his annual science and space presentations given each October at Pensacola State College. This will be the 10th such presentation at the College and visitors are encouraged to arrive early because seating is limited and there is usually standing room only.
"A Comet Is Coming...." will be presented free of charge in room 2142 at Pensacola State College at 7 PM on Saturday, October 5, 2013. It is sponsored by the Student Chapter of the Escambia Amateur Astronomers Association. Visitors are welcome and encouraged to attend to learn more about this comet, the physical nature of comets (what makes them so mystical and intriguing), as well as some of the famous comets of antiquity, from Shakespeare to the birth of Christ. Many of the factors that determine the actual appearance of Comet ISON will be presented and compared to comets of past years.