Comet of the Century? and a March 2013 prequel

It’s early to tell, but it looks like we’re in for quite a show later this year. Comets can be astonishingly beautiful “pokes” from the cosmos, giving us a glimpse of natural processes that are typically too long in duration or too far in distance to make much of a cultural impact. This new comet could provide an exceptional educational moment. And unlike last year’s transit of Venus, no one saw this one coming…until just recently. Watch the four minute story, below.

Comet Hale-Bopp provided a nice show nearly two decades ago. A South Bend Tribune article encouraging even new amateur astronomers to photograph the spectacle drew me into astroimaging. Below is an image I took, following those published instructions, with an ordinary SLR camera and print film–remember print film?–my first night out. Comet ISON could provide as good, and potentially much better, a target for new astroimagers. Big fun is on its way.
To whet your appetite for the big ISON show in the Fall, watch this video about a naked-eye comet that should peak on March 12 and 13 this year. March 5 and 12 are other key viewing dates.

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