It’s been a while since we were treated to a nice Comet encounter. The dramatic surprise brightening of Comet 17P Holmes in 2007 (to the right is a photo of the comet I took from Galway) and McNaught in the same year in are notable exceptions. Sadly McNaught was mainly visible from southern climes – we did not get much of a chance to see it from Ireland. Oh almost forgot the inimical comet Lovejoy (again for the Southern hemisphere!). Two new potentially bright comets have been discovered however.
PANSTARRS, discovered in June of 2011 currently has a magnitude of 10.5 – quite bright for one so far from the Sun. Perihelion is due in March 2013 (though again from southern climes – though it will swing back north). Still this one is promising – we are all hoping for a -1 or brighter display at it’s maximum.
But that’s not all. The really big news is Comet ISON which is predicted to pass within a mere 2 million KMs from the Sun !!!! If it does we should be treated to a very very very bright display – daylight visible with a huge tail. Of course it’s very early days yet and comet activity is notoriously difficult to predict. Here’s hoping that it will stay togeher for perihelion and not disentigrate before giving us a nice show!