When we look at the night sky next year, we’re going to see a giant comet dancing among the stars. Russian astronomers have discovered a comet that will be visible to Earth during the month of December 2013. They speculate this comet will be bigger than the Hale-Bopp (1997) and Halley’s Comet (1986), and it will be visible to the naked eye for three whole months.
The astronomers are calling the comet C/2012 S1, and it was discovered using the International Scientific Optical Network’s (ISON) telescope. They also believe this comet is the brightest celestial body our solar system has seen during this past century.
C/2012 S1’s scheduled appearance is on December 26, 2013, when it will be the closest to Earth. This giant piece of ice and rock will be quite spectacular to see in the night sky during the winter season. At the moment, C/2012 S1 is near Jupiter, and by late summer 2013, you should be able to see it with a pair of binoculars. Beginning in November 2013, it will be visible with the naked eye for a three-month period, up until mid-January 2014. That’s all assuming it doesn’t break up before then, which is always possible.
The astronomers who discovered the comet assure us that C/2012 S1 will not collide with the Earth itself as we can see it in the sky from a safe distance. They also foresee C/2012 S1 not being the only comet that will be visible to Earth in 2013. Astronomers are keeping tabs on Pan-STARRS, a smaller comet that is due to pass by Earth during the month of March 2013. Pan-STARRS is not expected to be as bright or as visible to the naked eye as C/2012 S1, however.