At this point, a steadily-approaching comet is still approximately 386 million miles from the Sun, reports CBS News. Although still quite far away at this juncture, come Aug. 2013, the comet will begin to become visible from Earth, and its close proximity to the Sun could cause a meteor shower predicted to be nothing short of dazzling.
According to NASA, the comet was discovered by Russian astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok in Sept. 2012, and thus it has been named after the system used for its discovery: the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON).
Comet ISON is proposed to differ from other comets in that “instead of burning up in a flash of light, [the particles] will drift gently down to the Earth below," says University of Western Ontario meteor scientist Paul Wiegert. This could reportedly cause a light show brighter than a full moon.
Other scientists agree: "If Comet ISON splits, it might appear as a 'string of pearls' when viewed through a telescope,” Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab tells NASA. “The orbit of the comet will bring it very close to the sun,” he says, “which we know can be a spectacular thing.”
EarthSky.org has broken down the best times for viewing Comet ISON: from Aug. until Oct. 2013, it should just begin to become visible to the eye. Through November, they promise much easier sightings as the comet nears our Sun. “Although the comet will be bright,” the site reports, “you’ll need to look carefully to see it in the sun’s glare.”
Dec. 2013, however, will most likely be the best time to see Comet ISON, notes EarthSky.org. “For a time,” the site describes, “it should be as bright as our sky’s brightest planet, Venus, and it should have a long comet tail. People all over Earth will be able to see it.”
This is all considering, however, that the comet doesn’t burn up one it becomes close enough to the Sun.
“Having been in a cosmic deep freeze for countless thousands of years,” reports the Huffington Post, “ISON will suddenly be subjected to unbelievable heat. Perhaps the comet’s nucleus will shatter, as sometimes happens when you pour hot tea into a cold cup.”
Although there is a chance that the comet will prove lackluster to our eyes here on Earth, Comet ISON may indeed give viewers the light show of a lifetime.
Sources: CBS News, NASA, Huffington Post, EarthSky.org