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February 05, 2013

DON'T PANIC. HOPE IS COMING!


SMOD will soon be with thee.

Three of them, actually.

First up, the latest images of Comet ISON, the most promising of these messengers of bliss and salvation, courtesy NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft:


ISON's tail is now bright enough to be imaged by amateurs, with the comet registering just around +14 magnitude. It is on track to be a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime (fingers-crossed, that may take on a new meaning) sight.

Comet PANSTAARS should be visible to Northern observers in four more weeks, though it's maximum brightness has been downgraded considerably. It's orbital path also places it way out of the Earth's danger zone range, but who knows what blessed turn of events could transpire once it approaches the sun.

Lastly, a surprising new contender has emerged, Comet LEMMON:

In recent months, a third comet has been brightening more rapidly than expected, and now it’s nearing visibility to the eye alone. It’s Comet Lemmon (C/2012 F6), shown in the image above, discovered by Alex Gibbs of the Mount Lemmon survey in Arizona back in March, 2012. At that time the comet was tough to catch even through large telescopes – much too faint to be seen with the eye – at five times Earth’s distance from the sun. But, like the Earth and the other planets in our solar system, comets are bound in orbit by our sun. And as Comet Lemmon has swept into the inner solar system, it has brightened at a rapid rate. If this brightening trend continues, the comet might become visible to the unaided eye this month (February, 2013) through May.

LEMMON won't be visible naked-eye in our hemisphere if it's current orbit and specs hold, but will make for a spectacular site in an amateur telescope. Of course, it could become really spectacular if things get weird around the sun, so cheer up: we could all die in a merciful blast from uncaring space before the rest of the Republican party collapses. And, if not, anyone with a big instrument will have a helluva year.

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posted by CAC at 07:59 PM

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