|Location of comet C/2012 S1 ISON in the solar system on 1 November. Click to embiggen||Morning sky from Friday November 1 to November 8 looking north-east as seen from
at 5:00 am ACST in South Australia. Comet C/2012 S1 ISON is to the right of Mars. Similar views will
be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).|
Comet C/2012 S1 ISON
has now been reported to be (just) visible in 10x50 binouclars. Currently somewhere around magnitude 8, with the Moon gone from the morning sky it visible in small scopes and strong binoculars. In binoculars it should look like a faint, fuzzy dot. However, its fuzzy, diffuse
nature, its closeness to the horizon (between 7 -12 degrees depending
on where you are, except Darwin and Far North Queensland, where it is
more like 20 degrees above the horizon see here
for charts illustrating the difference at different sites) means that it can be difficult to
spot visually in smaller scopes.
If all goes well by the 8th it should be magnitude 7, and easily seen in binoculars.
The comet is to the right of
Mars, making finding it relatively easy. The best time to look for it is when it is
highest in the sky and the sky is darkest.
However, especially in the Southern States, because it never gets very
high, the best time to look is astronomical twilight. Astronomical twilight is
an hour and a half before local sunrise.
On November 1 the comet is in the
constellation of Leo, and is just crossing Earth's Orbit (see image above). At this time comet
ISON is just under a hand span above the horizon as seen from the latitude of
Melbourne, just over a hand span as seen from the latitude of Sydney, nearly
two hand spans as seen from the latitude of Brisbane and almost 4 hand spans as
seen from the latitude of Darwin. A hand-span is the distance across your knuckles when your hand is outstreached at the end of your arm as if making a "stop" sign.
On the 1st there are no bright stars near
the comet. However, bright Mars is nearby and very
obvious. If you start at orange Mars and sweep down diagonally to the right
(east) of Mars around a hand span (the distance across the palm of your hand as
you hold it out at arm’s length like you are making a stop sign), the first
brightish star you come to is Chi (χ) Leo, down another 4 finger widths is the
next bright star, Sigma (σ) Leo (see the black and white printable map or the PDF map for this to be clearer).
The comet is roughly in between them, you may
need to hunt back and forth a bit to find it.
Over the next few days the comet
approaches, then passes, Sigma Leonis, being closest on the 3rd. Sweeping down again diagonally a little
over a hand span from Sigma Leonis is the bright star Zanijava, Beta (β) Virginis.
The comet approaches beta Virginis and is closest on the 7th and 8th of
November. The comet should, all things going well, be easily visible in
A printable PDF map is here
|A black and white map suitable for printing for use with
binoculars and telescopes. The large circle is the approximate field of
view of 10x50 binoculars, the medium circle the approximate field of
view of a 24 mm eyepiece for a reflecting telescope and the small
circle a 12 mm eyepiece for a reflecting telescope.Time is astronomical
twilight.Click to embiggen. The image is the same orientation as the horizon animation above. Click to embiggen||A high power stellarium view of the region
around Mars with ISON to go with the black and white spotters map.
This view is on the 3rd when the comet is close to Sigma Leonis. Click to embiggen.|
Labels: binoculars, C/2012 S1 ISON, comet, telescope