Bye, Bye ISON … For Now

Truly amazing image of Comet ISON taken Friday Nov. 22 from Austria with an 80mm (3.1″) telescope and two 1-minute exposures. Its tail is exceptionally long but faint. Credit: Michael Jaeger

I tried again this morning to see Comet ISON. Had there been a spotless eastern horizon it might have yielded to my 10×50 binoculars. But as often happens, a little bit of cloud hid the bottom two degrees of sky, so I had to wait till Mercury, Saturn and the hoped-for comet rose into the clear. I looked and looked between 6:10 and 6:35 a.m. at where ISON should have been but saw nothing. Saturn and Mercury were obvious but all else was starless blue where the comet should have been.

Just in case, I took a few photos of the area. We all know the camera sometimes sees more than the eye, but squinting at the LCD display in the warm comfort of home I still can’t see anything. Comet ISON is simply not bright enough now to compete with twilight. Ardent amateurs under exceptional skies may still be able to image the comet the next day or two using motorized tracking cameras and telescopes. You and I? We’re probably up the creek for now.

But hold on tight. After perihelion on Nov. 28, ISON will hopefully return in full regalia with brilliant head and sweeping tail. Use this time to catch up on your sleep – if Act II rises to expectations, we’ll be zombies by Christmas.

Just in case you still want to try sighting ISON, here are maps to use through Nov. 25.

24 Responses

  1. Edward M. Boll

    And even if ISON does not perform, we still have Lovejoy which is predicted to be dimmer than ISON during the first half or more of December, but I believe a little more dependable to see.

  2. Jon Dannehy

    I am sure glad I took your advice and got out several times these last 2 weeks. I was not able to see it either this morning. I tried both low and higher magnifications, the twilight sky was just too bright.

  3. dranko

    I’ve been getting up before six for a week, just to see an overcast sky. Considering I’ve been following the progression of this comet for over a year, not to see it with my own eyes would be severely disappointing.
    So fingers crossed now it makes it around that terrible bend 🙂

  4. Edward M. Boll

    I enjoy reading as much on the internet about ISON. I do not know why ,maybe it is the uncertainty of the whole thing. If a comet’s brightness was as predictable as it’s position, I and others would not keep looking at the data on it. I just read a statement by Karl Bataams. I have agreed and enjoyed his writing on ISON so far. He states that 8 days before perihelion, the 2011 Lovejoy was about magnitude 10. The same amount of time out for ISON showed it at magnitude 4.5. He said that he would not speculate about ISON’s perihelion brightness. He also stated that Lovejoy went on to make magnitude -3 in those 8 days. This sounds like good news. If ISON does the same, I would be satisfied with a magnitude -8.5 comet.The JPL has stated that ISON could brighten 8 magnitudes in the last 24 hours!

    1. astrobob

      So much speculation, so many numbers. While I appreciate forecasts from NASA, Bortle and Yoshida and use them for planning purposes, I try to take comets as they come. Based on its trajectory, ISON will almost certainly become very bright when near the sun. Let’s hope it can carry it forward to December.

  5. Morris

    I had better luck observing Pan-STARRS in the evening sky with binoculars, and photographing it was easy… I’ve had zero luck with ISON. (Tampa Bay area, FL)

    Here’s to hoping for a show next week!

    (i always think back to how casual i was with Hale-Bopp in the sky, and kick myself!) LOL 🙂

    1. astrobob

      Hale-Bopp was so bright, so easy and out for so long I can see how it would have easy to be “casual” with it. Pan-STARRS wasn’t always easy to find, but it was much brighter (so far) than ISON. Have you seen Comet Lovejoy? It’s the sleeper out there – nice and bright at mag. 4.8, visible with the naked eye and shows a tail in 10×50 binoculars. I can link you to a finder chart if you like.

  6. Hi Bob,

    As of the Time of writing, its 2.10 am hetre in malaysia. For the first time in 3 weeks , we have clear Skies …!!! Blessing in Disguise ? I personally don’t think so, for Ison will be too low and outshine by the morning Sun. But still, I will make that trip to my Hanger ( Airfield ) for a Last view ( I hope !!! ) of ” Ison ” before it makes a U-Turn at that dangerous ” Rothmans Corner ” ( A famous and dangerous Racing corner ) in a local circuit here. Well, even if I don’t get to see or Photograph, I will still manage to take an early morning Flight on my Ultralight and have a glimpse of its last goodbye wave….. Yee Haa !!

    Take care lets prat ” ISON ” Survives that Rothmans Corner …!!

    Cheers …JamesMoh.

  7. Edward M. Boll

    I have decided to say good bye to Encke till 2017. I plan to scan for ISON for tomorrow morning from 6:10-20. I probably will not see anything unless there is an outburst, but can still see 4 planets Saturn, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter. Oh, yes I can see Earth too, so technically 5.

  8. Au revoir ISON. See you on the other side. Be safe. Just make a right turn when you see limit of La Roche. We’ll stay in touch SO HOpefully when you emerge, you’ll stun us in STEREO with your new look.

      1. I’d be remiss to forget the great team at Goddard Space Flight Center for the omission of their Solar Dynamics Observatory in my little note. couldn’t figure out a way to fit SDO in there. Must be the “Saturday Night” effect…. 😉

  9. Edward O'Reilly

    Hi Bob: I just got back in from comet hunting(Nov 24) here in southern New Brunswick,Canada.Started with binos,but,remembering your blog from yesterday,decided it might be prudent to switch to my 8 inch Dobsonian.A bank of clouds was on the SE horizon so had to wait a few minutes for the planets to rise a bit more(probly same cloud bank that you had to contend with,lol).Was able to easily spot Mercury and Saturn but,alas,no Ison.Although clouds might have been a factor,I believe I had enough clear areas to see the comet-had twilight not been so overwhelming.I think Ison is now just too deep in the twilight to be spotted,even with a moderately sized scope.So now we wait. In a few days we’ll know if Ison briefly becomes a daylight comet.Personally,I think daylight visibility might be expecting a bit TOO much-but we’ll know soon.

    1. astrobob

      Hi Edward,
      I agree – it’s just not bright enough to punch through the twilight. Soon we’ll be watching it in SOHO images – just 3 days!

    1. astrobob

      Hi Yekaterina,
      Thanks for writing. The photos you took show an airplane contrail – unfortunately not the comet. I’ve seen the same and they can make you think for a minute that you’re looking at a bright comet.

      1. Thank you for answering, Bob! Now I see that my “comet” is just too bright to be a real comet. Even though it’s not ISON, at least, I learned something new about comets.

        1. astrobob

          Yes, you’ll always be able to tell far-away airplane contrails and comets apart because the contrail will change shape and slowly move toward or away. Comets will keep the same appearance for hours.

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