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Comet ISON now visible in binoculars

Nov 12 (): Dazzling Comet ISON has brightened enough as it approaches toward the sun and the comet is now visible through a decent pair of binoculars.

Sky watchers around the world have recently used binoculars to spot comet ISON which is racing towards us from billions of miles away and making a close encounter with the sun on November 28. The icy wanderer will be within just 730,000 miles (1.2 million kilometres) of the solar surface when it comes very close to the Sun.

Comet ISON excelled in a five-minute exposure taken at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre on November 8. At the time, the comet was 97 million miles from Earth.

One of the skywatchers told ISON’s head appears small and stellar through a pair of 15x70s optics. At present, the comet is as bright as an 8th magnitude star — too dim to be seen with the naked eye but easy to spot with binoculars or a small telescope. The comet could put on a great show in December if it survives its close pass by the sun later this month.

Comet ISON has been the most talked about comet of 2013. The comet was discovered by two Russian amateur astronomers in September 2012 and it was said to have the potential to become a striking object visible to the eye at the time of its perihelion – or closest point to the sun – on November 28, 2013.

Researchers have been tracking the comet since it was discovered with a variety of instruments on the ground and in space, expecting to learn about the composition of ISON by watching which gases boil off its surface at various distances from the sun.

It is also very tough to predict the behaviour of any comet, particularly a “dynamically new” one such as ISON that is making its first trip to the inner solar system from the distant and frigid Oort Cloud.