Woke up before dawn to see Comet ISON and all I got was this crummy moon

A veil of cloud passes over the crescent moon this morning. Moonlight diffracted by minute cloud droplets creates the colorful fringes. Details: 200mm at f/3.5, ISO 400 and 6-second exposure. Credit: Bob King

Just kidding of course. I mean, yes, I did get up early to a perfectly clear sky and drove to the country with hopes of seeing Comet ISON before dawn, but clouds appeared as though summoned by black magic. No comet, a hour or two of sleep lost. Yes, I was disappointed but not too much.

Another cloud, another remarkable work of nature. Credit: Bob King

A wiry crescent moon appeared in the east on the ride home providing just enough motivation to stop and park the car one more time. What a sight. Not just the crescent but the spectacular earthshine, that dusky husk of light that encloses the remainder of the moon. A reminder that Earth reflects sunlight too. Light from our glowing globe touches the ancient lunar soil and returns to us dimly. There’s ocean in that light, green trees, dark continents and yes, clouds. Lots of clouds.

23 thoughts on “Woke up before dawn to see Comet ISON and all I got was this crummy moon

  1. Hi Bob,

    Nice effort Bob, and thanks for taking the effort. Remember me ? ..I am James from Malaysia, I wrote to you regarding the visibility of Comet Panstarrs Early this year. As usual I fully recommend your site to my students. Ison is even lower for folks like us over at the Equator to view this late september. Hope You have better Luck this coming week and hopefully we will all be able to see a Pic or two of Ison……Thanks again Mate ….Cheers !!!

    Regards….James Moh Heng Hai.

    • Hi James,
      Yes, I do remember you. Nice of you to write again. I’ll be watching and photographing Comet ISON alright. I’m hoping it gets bright enough for simple telephoto lens photography the way PANSTARRS did. Wondering if you or your students got to see PANSTARRS?

      • Hi Bob,

        Yes , we did, but only for a short while, about 1 minute only and it wasn’t very good ( Due to the evening Haze ). Besides the weather were Bad during the period when it was visible here. Had a Hard time trying to differentiate between the comet from stars as the light from the setting Sun was a problem. Another factor was it’s position ( Low over the Horizon ). I have a feeling that ISON will put on a good show for us over here ( Finger Cross )…Ha,Ha. Believe it or not, I browze the net almost everyday for updates and images since it’s rediscovery. It’s now at Mag 12.58 ( The Sky Live ) and brightening …Yee Haa !!!

        Thanks and take care Mate …!!!

        Regards….James Moh.

        • James,
          Happy to hear you gave it a try. PANSTARRS was very tricky when it was at its best in twilight. It did easier to find but not for equatorial folks like yourself. ISON should be a nice sight for you guys in November before perihelion.

        • Hi James,

          I’m in Malaysia too, and a bit clueless as to what the best time is to see ISON this month or next month. I’ve read it’s before dawn on some articles, but I’m assuming this is different according to where you are on the planet? Could you tell me what time you think would be best? Thank you :)

          • Gaelle,
            The only (and best) time to see Comet ISON whether Indonesia or Duluth, Minnesota is an hour or two before the start of dawn. It’s very near the planet Mars in the constellation Leo. Find out what time the sun rises for your city and look in Leo about 2 hours before that time. Right now the moon is still very bright and will make the comet hard to see in even an 8-inch telescope. Once the moon is a thin crescent or gone completely, ISON will be visible in 6-inch or larger telescopes. It is still far from being visible with the naked eye or typical binoculars.

  2. Now if one goes out at 8 PM, the sky is bright but there is no longer any Sun. One must rise earlier to see sunset or later sunrise. I do not like the event of cold weather coming in but it should help with dark star and planet gazing. For right now this is advantageous for ISON, but by perihelion it would be close and appear close to the Sun whatever time of the year it is.

      • Hi Bob,

        Kudos to you on the article over at Universe Today. As usual, your article are simple and informative. Will be sharing it with my students over here. By the way, I did compensate my students with an outing ( Perseid Meteor Showers ) party last month. Thank goodness it was a night to remember for all of them, for the rest of their Life. We saw an average of between 15 to 20 in an hour. But most importantly, it was that One ” Big Fireball ” that makes shout out …Wahhhhhhh !!! That alone was a blessing in disguise for the disappointment of comet Panstarrs. I will be sharing your article with my student soon.

        Take care and Cheers !!!

        James Moh.

  3. I believe that one of the nicest times this time of year to be out is 45-50 minutes after sunset. No sunburn. The temp is near perfect, maybe on the cool side. Venus this year is showing it’s light. And we can just make out the light of Saturn starting to shine through the darkness. In 2 days, Venus appears closest to Spica, and in 2 weeks watch for the cool conjunction of Saturn and our close neighbor Venus.

  4. Hi Bob
    This story has been bugging me all day but I finally found it on the internet, it was in 2011 and it was the ESA that published it and it said that 2011 SG68 has the greatest chance of hitting earth, but when you read the story they change it to 2011 SF108, so as you can imagine it was very confusing and I remember reading that it was a mistake, but I don’t know if the story was a mistake or the asteroid’s, can you shed any light on it and whatever one it is, is it still a threat, hopefully you know. Thanks Bob :-)

    • Lynn,
      These are separate asteroids discovered by different people and instruments. Both have some slight probability of hitting Earth in the future. You may have been confused because the original article talks about both discoveries.

  5. Hi Bob
    The heading on the article says that 2011 SG68 had the greatest chance of hitting earth but when you read the story it’s all about 2011 SF108 it didn’t mention SG58 again, I know that don yeomans had said that there was a mistake by the article, so do you think then that maybe it should have only been one of them to be mentioned in the article after what don yeomans said as in there was an error made, I don’t really understand what he has meant and the possibility of hitting is that a long time away into the future. Thanks Bob

    • Hi Lynn,
      I’m not aware of a mistake. The ESO article I read simply included both objects as part of a discovery program. I will say that the transition from one to the other made by the writer was confusing.

  6. Can you tell me Bob what are the dates that could possibly be a threat, as far as I am aware I think 2011 SG68 doesnt come that near to us but I don’t know about 2011 SF108, I have looked on JPl but there doesn’t seem to be much info on them but maybe you have a better idea, also when you look up 2011 SG68 it seems to just give info about 2011 SF108 that is why I thought there was an error and the same Don said too, I hope you know some dates or closest approaches. Thanks Bob

    • Lynn,
      2011 SF108 closest approach to Earth is a happy and healthy 30 million km. I can only find that in the far distant future it might cause a threat. These two are among many Earth-crossingasteroids found that could potentially meet up with Earth in the fullness of time.

  7. Hi Bob,

    I am now in Malaysia. May i know the position of comet ISON just before sunrise so that it will be more easier to locate ISON?
    Thank you so much and hope to hear from you

    • Hi Steven,
      The comet is so low and not bright enough now against the twilight to get a good view now. If you wait until after next weekend, I’ll make new maps to find it. ISON should be (we hope) much brighter then.

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