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Comet ISON Update
What's Up: Brought to you by Jane Houston Jones

Two months have gone by since Comet ISON was reaquired by amateur astronomer Bruce Gary in mid-August. Here's a viewing chart for the rest of October, plus news about viewing the comet.

No one knows how bright the come may become, but it's still worth tracking down. You can still use Mars as a pointer. Try scanning the area shown on the chart with your binoculars! I was able to see the comet using my telescope on October 6th. It was faint, but easy to find. My very dark desert location had no light pollution, which helped me spot the faint comet. Here is what the comet looked like through my telescope eyepiece:

The best time to view comet ISON is still during the hour or so before dawn. On October 25th-26th, you'll find the moon below Jupiter high in the southern morning sky. From there, you'll be able to find Mars halfway between Jupiter and the horizon, then hopefully, Comet ISON.

Here's an excellent Star Chart showing comet ISON's path near Mars in October, courtesy of Skyhound's Skytools3 software.

How bright will the comet be in the next few weeks? To see with your unaided eye, it will need to be magnitude 5-6, binoculars, magnitude 7-8, telescopes to about mag 9-10 in the brightening dawn sky. In a darker sky, an experienced comet observer or astrophotographer will see to magnitude 12 or fainter. Right now the comet is about magnitude 9 (all the various charts vary a bit as to the brightness) Magnitude 9 is possible but challenging in binoculars.

As the comet races towards the sun, it's not too soon to warn observers never to aim your telescope, binoculars or your eyes at the sun. It's not a good idea to set up your telescope tracking the comet, go to sleep and wake up before dawn. Always keep your telescope covered so someone won't accidentally look too near the sun. This will be more crucial in November.

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About: Jane Houston Jones
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Jane is an astronomer, NASA science podcast developer, writer, educational and outreach artisan and social media enthusiast. She and her husband have an asteroid (22338 Janemojo) named after them.
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Last Updated: 31 Oct 2013