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Stargazers in for a Treat in 2013

Update Date: Jan 11, 2013 07:15 AM EST
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With the possible appearances of two comets, stargazers are in for a fabulous treat this year. Comet Pan-STARRS will make its appearance in March. It will be visible for people across the northern Hemisphere. Comet ISON will appear in October 2013 and will move from the Southern Hemisphere across the Northern Hemisphere.

Whether these comets will be a shiner or a dud is yet to be seen. It all depends on their capacity to tolerate the immense heat emanated from the sun. Comet ISON or C/2012 S1 (as it is officially known), was discovered by two Russian astronomers - Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok Sept. 21, 2012.

The comet ISON is named after the institute that these two amateur astronomers work for -- International Scientific Optical Network. It will be closest to Earth by the end of December 2013 and will be bright enough to be visible to the naked eye.

While writing in the comets email listed by Yahoo, Artyom Novichonok said, "The object was slow and had a unique movement. But we could not be certain that it was a comet because the scale of our images is quite small and the object was very compact."

Astronomers have found a similarity in orbits between ISON and that of the Great comet in 1680, also known as 'Kirch's Comet' or 'Newton's Comet'. The latter was reported to be bright enough to be seen in the daytime. So, astronomers are expecting the same from ISON. The similarities between the two comets have also led astronomers to wonder whether they are a part of the same larger body.

The last comets to hit the news was Hale-Bopp in 1997 and the brief appearance of 17P/Holmes in 2007, both of which were visible from the Southern Hemisphere. It may also be worthwhile to mention here that there were several other comets which were predicted to be Great comets, but fizzled out as they could not withstand the distance as well as the extreme heat of the sun.

Scientists have been able to track the origin of ISON to the Oort cloud, which is a bunch of frozen rock and ice which circles the sun at a distance which is 50,000 times larger than that of the Earth's orbit. These comets get dispersed from the parent cluster by gravitational force and start their own singular orbit around the sun.

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