Oak Bay’s Cattle Point among best places to view massive comet Ison

Object may explode when it nears sun, Oak Bay amateur astronomer says

A 3,000-metre-wide comet will be visible to the naked eye starting Friday, but you will have to be up early to see it.

The Comet Ison will be most visible 30 minutes before dawn, from Nov. 15 to Dec. 25. It will reach maximum brightness Nov. 28, when it comes closest to the sun’s surface – about 1,165,000 km.

While NASA is sometimes concerned about potential collisions of comets with Earth, amateur astronomer Bill Smith said Ison is expected to come no closer to us than 64 million km, on Dec. 26.

“If the earth had been in position of (the comet’s) path, the whole earth would have been decimated,” he said. “The collision would literally break earth into smithereens.”

Not only is this comet not expected to return to our part of the universe again, Smith added, there is a 50-50 chance it will explode.

“When it gets close to the sun, it will get bombarded by solar winds and radiation. There is also the pressure made by gravity, and when it gets heated, you can imagine what will happen to an object that’s mostly made of water.”

Smith suggests one of the best places to view the comet in Greater Victoria is Cattle Point Urban Star Park, looking towards the southeast part of the sky.

The comet, also known as C/2012 S1 and Comet Nevski-Novichonok, was discovered Sept. 21, 2012 by two Russian amateur astronomers.

reporter@vicnews.com

EDIT: A previous version of this article contained an inaccurate number.