Comet ISON continues to rapidly increase in brightness — as you can see in the images below. But is the rapid increase a sign that the much-hyped comet may be on the verge of breaking apart?
Some researchers have voiced their concerns in recent days that the rapid brightening may very well be the result of the comet fracturing. We won’t have to wait long to find out if this is true though, as Comet ISON reaches perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) just over a week from now, on November 28, 2013.
For information on observing Comet ISON, see: Comet ISON, Comet ISON 2013 — Dates, Times, Path, Updates, And Pictures
Some background on Comet ISON:
“C/2012 S1, also known as Comet ISON is a sungrazing comet discovered on 21 September 2012 by Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok. The discovery was made using the 0.4-meter reflector of the International Scientific Optical Network near Kislovodsk, Russia and the automated asteroid-discovery program CoLiTec. Observations by Swift in January 2013 suggested that C/2012 S1’s nucleus was around 5 kilometers (3 miles) in diameter.”
“On 14 November 2013, C/2012 S1 was reported to be visible to the naked eye by experienced observers located at dark sites. ISON has an appearance similar to comet C/2013 R1 that is also visible to the naked eye. C/2012 S1 was not expected to reach the naked eye magnitude of 6 until mid-November, and may not be observable by the general public until it brightens to about magnitude 4. On 17–18 November, when C/2012 S1 was brighter and much closer to the morning twilight, it passed the bright star Spica in the constellation Virgo. But due to the full moon and glow of twilight, C/2012 S1 has not become bright enough to be seen without optical aid by the general public.”
“Around the time it reaches perihelion on 28 November, it may become extremely bright if it remains intact, probably reaching a negative magnitude. Predicting the brightness of a comet is difficult, especially one that will pass so close to the Sun and be affected by the forward scattering of light. Originally media sources predicted it might become brighter than the full Moon, but based on more recent observations, it is only expected to reach around apparent magnitude −3 to −5, about the same brightness as Venus. In comparison, the brightest comet since 1935 was Comet Ikeya–Seki in 1965 at magnitude −10, which was much brighter than Venus.”
Image Credit: E Jehin / TRAPPIST / ESO