“Once in a Civilization” Comet to Pass By Earth Next Year

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When it comes to this current society, it doesn’t seem like we’ve been able to celebrate a great deal of awe-inspiring events; positive ones anyway.  It’s exciting news then to hear that next year our eyes will be able to feast upon the sight of a “once in a civilization” comet as it zips past Earth.

The newly discovered C/2012 S1 (ISON) will flare out of the distant Oort Cloud, and “make for one of the most spectacular night sky events in living memory.” This comet is going to go through quite the journey, and that’s what is getting astronomers all riled up.

The comet will initially pass the sun from 1.16 million miles away in its closest approach to the star. That obviously sounds like a lot, but given the size of the Sun, in terms of the size of the Earth, that would be within the orbit of several satellites.

Astronomers are predicting that this close approach to the sun will give the comet a very impressive “tail” of dust and gas. This will result in quite the show for us humans around Christmastime 2013. Viewers in the Northern Hemisphere will get the best view out of all of us.

While comets do have a history of not living up to expectations, astronomers are saying the comet could grow as bright as the moon.  One John E. Bortle, has even gone as far to claim this comet could compare to the Great Comet of 1680, which according to accounts, “caused the people of New York’s Manhattan Island to be overcome with terror at a sight in the heavens such as has seldom greeted human eyes… In the province of New York a day of fasting and humiliation was appointed, in order, that the wrath of God might be assuaged.”

Hopefully ours will live up to expectations.

Image Credit: Getty Images


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