Final ISON Update: December 22nd 2013

Well, that’s that then.

The Hubble team have imaged the part of the sky Comet ISON – or what’s left of it – should be in, and have seen nothing. So of there’s anything left of ISON, and not even Hubble can see it, I think it’s safe to finally declare the comet dead and gone.

I’ve been wondering how to mark the end of this adventure. I thought about writing a long, very personal post describing my most exciting/frustrating/disappointing ISON moments, but then something else just came to me, which you can read at the end of this post. I hope at least some of you like it.

So, this is my final post about Comet ISON on this blog. And while I will continue to update the blog with news about Comet Lovejoy – and (I hope you’ll be pleased to hear!) will add new pages for any new comets which come along, with finder charts and observing tips etc – writing anything else about ISON would just be writing for the sake of it.

I would like to say thanks to all of you for following my ISON pages and for supporting this blog. I’ve enjoyed helping many of you find, observe and photograph the comet, and I’ll look forward to observing more comets with you in the future! For the lovely comments – thank you, I have truly appreciated those. For the not-so-lovely ones, well, I’ll not give their writers the satisfaction of seeing their names here. They’re already forgotten. Even though ISON has gone, no doubt I will continue to receive hate mail and abusive comments from the Nibiru crowd and their fellow members of the nutter conspiracy theory community, but that goes with the territory. ( And who knows, maybe by the time the next potentially naked eye comet comes along, and all the craziness begins again, my ban from a certain conspiracy theory forum – which has linked to my blog and whose members have used my images freely – will have been lifted…? But somehow I doubt it. But hello to everyone over there anyway, even their cowardly Admins who didn’t reply to any of my emails. I look forward to reading your Siding Spring-related BS next October… 🙂 )

So… this is the end, my friends, the End… ISON might not have been a Great Comet for skywatchers and stargazers, but it was undoubtedly a great comet for the scientists, we shouldn’t let our disappointment spoil that. The things cometary scientists learned from Comet ISON will advance cometary and planetary astronomy by a giant leap, and we should all be very thankful for that. When the next ISON comes along – and it will, that’s guaranteed – we will all be better prepared for it, amateurs and professionals, thanks to ISON.

But oh, what might have been, eh..?

Stuart Atkinson

Dec 22nd 2013


Farewell, ISON

On a dozen frosty dawns I watched for you;

Hauled telescopes and cameras up that icy, muddy track,

A map- and binoculars-stuffed rucksack on my back,

All to get just one more glimpse of you glowing feebly above the trees,

A barely-there faraway flare of green

Far fainter than you should have been…

Others gave up on you, packed their gear away to await the day

Of your solar roller-coaster ride, but I

Kept my faith in you, and every fleeting chance I had to catch

A glimpse of you I grabbed with both cold-numbed hands,

Standing in the castle’s jagged shadows, hunting for your so weak glow

Through gaps in the low scudding clouds…

A week before Perihelion I saw you for the last time –

A hint of lime between twin lines of churning black;

A tiny emerald eye peeping out from the folds

Of the clouds’ dark cloak just long enough for one last photo

To be stolen before fading away –


My loyalty was misplaced, my optimism wasted.

I never saw you again.

Instead of screeching around the Sun and leaping

Triumphantly up into my evening sky you died,

Ripped apart by the corona’s clutching claws,

Leaving only a smear of dust behind,

So thinly-spread and faint now I hear not even Hubble’s

Staring Cyclops eye can find what’s left of you…

The scientists shrugged off your demise;

Already delighted with their shiny data

They still rated you a great comet, happy to pour

Over their charts and graphs like warlocks learning spells,

Their spider scrawl Afrho equations  incantations

To solve the Oort’s beyond-ancient mysteries…

But those of us who had dreamed of seeing you

Painted on the sky, who dared imagine a gossamer-trailing firefly

Shining through the golden pre-dawn light

Despaired at the unfairness of it all.

Staring forlornly at SDO’s empty field of view that day

We knew there would be no treasured photographs of you

Cutting the sky in two;  no breathless “Look at that..!” sighs

At the sight of your torch-beam tail rising behind the hills;

No stories told in future years of hearing children laughing

With delight as they stared at you That Night

Through a telescope, seeing the ghostly streamers trailing away

From you like ribbons blowing in the wind…

None of those things were ever meant to be.

“ISON” was never destined to be written on that Facebook-debated list

Of Great Comets next to “Lovejoy”, “Halley” and “Hale-Bopp”;

You’re just another “One That Got away”.

No doubt next time a fainter-than-faint smudge is spotted

Moving through the stars we’ll remember what we learned

From you, and thank you.

But today, looking sadly at an empty sunset,

Staring bitterly at the sky where you should have been,

That day seems a long, long way away…

© Stuart Atkinson 2013

23 Responses to “Final ISON Update: December 22nd 2013”

  1. I really enjoyed your blog, looking forward to the updates on future comets!

  2. Just brilliant…

  3. It might be interesting to do a comparison of how the ISON story was handled by various astronomy-related publications, specifically Astronomy and Sky and Telescope magazines. It seems to me that Astronomy was all-in on the comet, with huge headlines proclaiming Comet of the Century, Ison Blazes into Glory, etc . Sky and Telescope what much more reserved, pointing out that sun-grazers often disintegrate. Both magazines must publish months in advance, so it was genuinely an editorial guessing game trying to “play” the story properly. An aside: I wonder how Bob Berman’s early November comet-watching excursion to Chile turned out?
    Thanks for the blog; if you’re ever in Idaho we have some great high-elevation sites to visit in the summer and the Idaho Falls astronomy club hosts a twice-yearly star party at Craters of the Moon National Monument that is, well, monumental.

    • Those observing sites sound fantastic, will definitely check them out if we ever get over there, thanks! Merry Christmas.

  4. Oops, doggone typos; it should read … Sky and Telescope was much more reserved …

  5. Thanks for all your hard work Stu. I’m very sorry we didn’t get to see what we hoped so long for. 😦

    Nevermind, more will be on the way soon. I look forward very much to sharing the experience with you and my friends here on WFI. I’ll keep in touch still with the Lovejoy thread.

    Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a cometful New Year!

    Happy Christmas Stu. Lovely poem to end on too. It had me filling up. 😉

  6. A moment of silence…

    It had been an honor to be a part of this blog.

    Your blog will be engraved in history like ISON. Every drop of blood, sweat and tears you had shed was never wasted. Instead, it lit the path of knowledge, hope and inspiration for all of us.

    Thank you Stu for everything and have a bountiful and Merry Christmas!

    PS: The poem is awesome 😀

  7. Lovely Poem, brought a tear to my eye, literally. Thanks again and I will continue to read your stuff.

  8. Greetings from the Yukon. Thank you for your wonderful blog. I look forward to the day your blog announces the next comet of the century. It will come!! Merry Christmas

  9. Wow Phoenixpics! you ar epoet too. That was superb.

    Wish you and all youor readers a happy Christmas and a Great new year.

  10. Thx again for the blog, we all have a love for astronomy and i thank you for providing a place for reliable info, giggles and for keeping the nutters at bay! Looking forward to future charts and info, and WaitingForIson will remain in my bookmarks 🙂 Cheers

  11. The fake Apollo crowd is at it again.
    These are the titles to do a title search on Youtube if you like
    these guys deserve a good broadside. Wish I had the time.

    The last one is actually a good attempt at being funny. Worth a watch

    China’s jade rabbit lunar rover is a total fake
    China fakes lunar rover pictures
    Chinese lunar rover finds no evidence of American moon landings


    • Yeah, it’s amazing isn’t it? The loons believe the Chinese have landed on the moon, and they believe the Yanks didn’t? There’s a hint of juvenile, USA hating, gullible hypocrisy in their thinking I reckon.

      • It would not be so unsavoury if the Chinks did that. It is in fact quite abnoxious that I find the authors of these fabrications to be Americans. They deserve to be pilloried.

  12. Well…. I guess this is it…

    I guess it is back to hibernation mode, until Siding Springs shows up in October…

    Markoolio, signing out… (I’ll be on the Lovejoy page)

    Happy New Year everyone!

  13. I just listened to the Dec. 24 Stardate podcast about Kohoutek. It said ISON was scheduled to be closest to Earth on the 24th. It wasn’t clear about the earlier fizzle, so I Googled to piece together the story. I found your blog. Thank you for giving closure to the ate of ISON. I enjoyed your poem and gave it a WP “Like.”

  14. Will there be an Ison meteor shower in january?

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