It’s Hard To See Comet ISON, But Boy, Do Middle TN Stargazers Want To

Comet ISON, as seen from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. Image: NASA/WikiMedia Commons

Comet ISON, as seen from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. Image: NASA/WikiMedia Commons

Some Nashvillians will rise early Thanksgiving morning…not to put the turkey in the oven, but to put their eyes to a telescope. Astronomers are hoping to get one final glimpse of Comet ISON, before it travels behind the sun.

Big comets are rare, passing close to Earth about every decade or so. But ISON has been elusive for stargazers. Streaking across the horizon at 216,000 miles an hour, it’s hard to see even with a telescope. But that hasn’t stopped amateur astronomers like Theo Wellington from getting up early.

“It’s kinda fun when a new comet comes in and you were hoping it was going to be really cool and really bright,” says Wellington. She’s also the President of the Barnard-Seyfert Astronomical Society. “It’s fun to chase these ephemeral things that are out there in space. We don’t see them until they come in and get lit up by the sun.”

Thursday, ISON will pass within a million miles of the sun. If it’s not destroyed, the comet will be brighter, and it will be visible in Middle Tennessee with the naked eye, starting in mid-December.

NASA scientists will host live updates and a Google Hangout as ISON approaches the sun–Thursday from Noon to 2:30 Central.

Comet ISON, as seen from North Nashville. Image: Theo Wellington

Comet ISON, as seen from North Nashville. Image: Theo Wellington

 


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