Updates: September 2013


There are now many dozens of images of Comet ISON online, taken by amateur astronomers all around the world. As the comet brightens… slowly… and becomes more clearly visible in a darker sky, more and more telescopes and cameras are being turned towards it. So far the vast majority of the portraits of ISON have been, well, a bit disappointing. A bit fuzzy, a bit blurry, and in black and white, they are technical triumphs but they’re not exactly aesthetically pleasing are they?

Well, now we have one which is, courtesy of astro imager extraordinaire Damian Peach…

Now, if you’re new to all this skywatching stuff, that last sentence meant nothing to you. And this photo won’t ring any bells either…


But if you’re an amateur astronomer already, or just someone with an interest in stargazing, chances are when you read that last sentence, and saw that photo, you thought “Oh yes! Let me see!” because Damian is something of a legend in the astronomical community.  He takes photos of planets, comets and deep sky objects so detailed, so clear, that many people suspect he actually has his own TARDIS which he uses to travel around the solar system taking his photos close up, rather than from Earth, peering through our planet;s murky atmosphere. But no, his photos are all very much terrestrial in origin, and their quality means Damian’s work is rightly heralded as stunning and features on more websites than a Miley Cyrus twerk. If you want to see some of Damian’s work, here’s a good place to start – a stunning image of Jupiter… And look at this image of Saturn!

But enough background, let’s see Damian’s image…

c2012_s1_2013_09_24rgb D Peach Sept 24

Oh, look at that… Isn’t that a thing of beauty? ISON looks like a real comet on that, doesn’t it? Of course, ISON is still a long, long way away, and that’s a highly-magnified view through a telescope, but isn’t it gorgeous?

I was going to write a standard post about that picture, but then I found myself wishing Damian could tell us about it himself… then I wondered if he actually would do that, if I asked him… ?

I asked him. And he said yes!

So let’s find out all about that wonderful portrait of Comet ISON from the man who took it.

* Damian, your colour image of Comet ISON is absolutely beautiful, and has been featured on countless websites, blogs and FB pages around the world since you released it. Congratulations! Can you tell us a little about how you took it – where you were, the equipment you used, etc?

Certainly. The image was taken using a remote observatory that i often use located in New Mexico, USA. The great advantage here is that its possible to image the comet from a really dark location without light pollution ruining the view. Sadly at home light pollution is a serious problem so remote observation is really the only way forward for taking images of faint objects such as ISON is at the moment – especially so low down in the sky.

* For any non-astronomers reading this blog, can you describe just what your photograph shows?

The image shows Comet ISON amongst various background stars. ISONs short dust tail is around 8 arc minutes in length and this is likely to become brighter and more intense as the comet slowly draws closer to the Sun for its close encounter on Nov 28th.

* Your astrophotography is famous around the world, especially your highly detailed portraits of planets. Do you often try and image comets, or did you make a special effort for ISON?

Over the past year i’ve imaged many different comets, though of course ISON is a special comet – one cant help but take a peek now and then to see how its doing. I took many images of Comet Panstarrs earlier this year and really enjoyed watching the comet change and develop. Comets are fascinating objects – no two are quite the same.

( Note: Damian’s PANSTARRS images can be seen here )

* Have you photographed – or even just observed – other comets in the past? Any particularly special comet viewing experiences?

I think my most memorable observing experience was watching Hale Bopp at its best in 1997. That remains one of my most memorable astronomical sights and if we are very lucky perhaps ISON will make it into this category!

* As an accomplished astrophotographer, what is the appeal of Comet ISON for you?

My appeal in observing ISON and any other comet is their dynamic and unpredictable nature. You never quite know what they are going to do.

* What advice would you give to any readers of this blog who might want to take photographs of Comet ISON with rather more modest equipment than yours?

If the comet does reach a good brightness tripod mounted DSLR cameras will be the ideal equipment choice. You wont need any really expensive gear to get great photos. This is one of the beauties of things such as this – taking great photos is really accessible to observers of every experience level. All we need it for ISON to live up to expectations (though of course we simply dont know for sure how bright it will become.)

* And finally, what images are you hoping to take of Comet ISON in the future?

I’ve got few plans for imaging the comet in the months ahead. I hope to try some high resolution based work on the comet if it becomes bright enough to try and detect short term changes within the inner coma. Lets keep our fingers crossed it does perform as expected!

Thanks Damian!

If you’d like to see Damian’s stunning astrophotography, here’s a link to his website






SEPTEMBER 17th 2013

or “This is what we’re up against...”

So. I was wondering what to write about in my latest update, and frankly coming up blank. There’s not a lot of “news” around. ISON is brightening, slowly but nicely, but there are only so many times you can write that before your readers start yawning and flipping channels. Maybe, I thought, a post about which binoculars to buy and use for observing ISON? Yeah, that would do. And I was *this* close to writing that, then I saw a new comment left on this blog and my muse tapped me on the shoulder and laughed “There you go…!”

So here I go.

This blog has attracted a lot of attention since I started it. Most of it very good and very welcome – there are lots of people out there who want to know about Comet ISON, where to see it, how to see it, when to look for it, etc, and I’ve had some really lovely messages from readers grateful for the info here. Some people tho aren’t so happy to see it, and you can probably guess who THEY are! yes, they’re the nutters who insist, on their blogs, in their YouTube videos and on Twitter, that they know The Truth about ISON, that it is going to hit and destroy Earth, or going to pelt us with asteroids, or is a UFO, or an alien “biosphere”, etc etc. I honestly have nothing but contempt for these people, who are at best pathetically ignorant of science and at worst are scare-mongering, wicked attention seekers. Some of them are basically anti-science conspiracy theory worshipping trolls, and have have left really nasty messages on my blog, and I’ve just deleted them, figuring they probably just missed their medication and to show their comment would just encourage them to post more rubbish. Others, tho, just cry out to be answered, and I’ve done that too, but inevitably they fire back an aggrieved “You know NOTHING!  You’re part of the conspiracy!” reply so I end up deleting them anyway. But today’s comment is worth going through, I think, if only to highlight how scientifically ignorant these people are, and to show just what we – the ISON bloggers, observers and amateir astronomy enthusiasts – are up against as we try to educate people about ISON.

Ok, my commenting friend, you’re on, go for it, the stage is yours…

You can not rule out any possibilities. Comet’s trajectories are changed the closer they get to the sun and gases start getting released. According to orbital diagrams ISON has no chance of hitting earth but lets say I was going to IMPACT you honestly think they are going to let us know?? Solar Flares can not be rules out as gravitational forces from the comet could effect the way the sun reacts. IT WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY MORONIC TO SAY THAT NOTHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN FOR SURE. Only a complete idiotic uneducated fucktard would claim that we are going to be safe because the fact is no one knows. ISON is sure to be dragging along a few passengers after it passed through the asteroid belt so the comet Is most likely not going to impact but we will be traveling through the debris trail. At the very least we will get a spectacular meteor show. There is nothing wrong with being ready for a worse case scenario.”

Right. Shall we go through that Shakespearean passage rant by rant?

According to orbital diagrams ISON has no chance of hitting earth but lets say I was going to IMPACT you honestly think they are going to let us know??

Well, they couldn’t keep it quiet. Apart from the Hubble Space telescope team, and other professional observers, there are now hundreds if not thousands of very accomplished amateur astronomers , with kick ass telescopes and computers, observing and following ISON, who can calculate its orbit and movements with their own computers and software, completely independantly of NASA, “The Government” and all official bodies. If they found ISON was a danger to us, why would they keep it quiet? So this is a ridiculous and paranoid claim, with X Files conspiracy theory written all over it.


Solar Flares can not be rules out as gravitational forces from the comet could effect the way the sun reacts.

Oh boy.


Yes, they CAN be ruled out, because ISON is a teeny, tiny piece mucky ice compared to the “Oh my god! It’s HUGE!!!!”roiling, boiling, belching Sun. It’s like a mosquito next to blue whale, so the incredibly tiny amount of gravity it has (if you stood on a comet and threw a stone off it it would escape the comet’s gravity and fly off into space) could not possibly affect the Sun. It Just Couldn’t. Learn some physics.

ISON is sure to be dragging along a few passengers after it passed through the asteroid belt so the comet Is most likely not going to impact but we will be traveling through the debris trail.

Now, I’m going to give our commenter the benefit of the doubt here, and assume that, like many people, he doesn’t appreciate the true nature of the asteroid belt – that it is a lot, a LOT, of emptiness, with asteroids separated by incredible distances. I think our commenter shares the misconception that the asteroid belt is crammed full of mountain sized chunks of rock, all bumping into each other, jostling for position, flying around in all directions. And where did this come from? Well, I blame Star Wars, or, more accurately, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, which showed the Millenium Falcon and her heroic crew flying through this…


Which is an absolutely thrilling sequence, I love it as much as the next guy, but that’s not what the asteroid belt is actually like. If you stood on an asteroid in the asteroid belt, even the very closest asteroid would just look like a star in the sky. They’re that far apart. So when space-probes pass through the asteroid belt they don’t have to weave and dodge like the Falcon because most of the belt is just empty space. So when ISON flew through it it didn’t pick up any passengers  because it almost certainly didn’t encounter any, it flew through, essentially, emptiness. And if it HAD passed close to any asteroids, its gravity is too pathetically weak to attract any of them to it. But if it somehow HAD attracted some small asteroids with that pathetically weak gravity, they would have been spotted in photos by now, not only by Hubble, or the Faulkes, or one of the other major telescopes following ISON, but by one of those aforementioned independent amateur astronomers, and shown off proudly to the world. So, any “debris trail” the comet is leaving consists of pieces of the comet itself, teeny tiny pieces, of grit and dust.

At the very least we will get a spectacular meteor show –

Aw, now that’s just lazy. True, this possibility was speculated about initially, when we were all a bit ISON giddy, and some lazy journalists are still rehashing that, cutting and pasting passages from those early breathless reports, but any meteor spectacular was soon discounted, and there are now many, many posts and write-ups on the internet explaining why this won’t happen. It’s possible we *might* see some enhanced meteor activity, I suppose, because we don’t know how big the pieces of grit coming off ISON will be, but think it’s fair to say that it’s now thought much more likely that we will only encounter very fine dust from the comet, which *might* drift into our upper atmosphere and become visible as displays of “noctilucent clouds”, such as those we sometimes see in summer, like these I photographed from here in Kendal earlier this year…


I know!! WOW!!! Ah, but wait. Even that is being dismissed as unlikely by some experts, so it would be great if we did see that, but don’t count on seeing that after ISON passes.

There is nothing wrong with being ready for a worse case scenario

Absolutely. You’re absolutely right. And one day we WILL find a comet or asteroid on a collision course with Earth and will have to get our asses off the couch and do something about it (if we have time…) But ISON is not that comet, just as Elenin wasn’t, even though many of the same people now ranting and raving about ISON insisted it would. No. The worst case scenarios being predicted on the internet are all absolute fantasies, based on scientific ignorance and have no basis in fact at all.

Only a complete idiotic uneducated fucktard would claim that we are going to be safe because the fact is no one knows

Well, I’ll let the rest of you decide which of the two of us is “uneducated” I think… 🙂

So, see? This is what we’re up against as we try to educate and inform people about Comet ISON. It baffles me why there are so many people out there desperate for it to be dangerous! But more seriously, comments like these do highlight the shocking amount of ignorance about science there is today. I don’t know what we can do about that, when the villagers carrying the pitchforks and flaming torches and howling “Burn the scientists!!” outside the laboratories are using computers and the internet, things created BY scientists, to spread their stupidity.

But I’ll keep trying.

SEPTEMBER 15th 2013

Every day now more and more “amateur” images of Comet ISON are appearing online. Why? Well, the comet is simply easier to see. The part of the sky it is in is now clearing the horizon early enough that it’s still reasonably dark, dark enough to take long exposure photos through telescopes before the sky brightens with the approach of sunrise. And in the larger telescopes, including the ones you can use remotely over the internet (having paid for their use, of course) ISON is looking *very* pretty now, with a well-defined tail and a bright, star-like head, as you can see in this lovely image taken yesterday by Gianluca Masi… (If you want technical details you’ll find them on the image, if you click on it to enlarge it)…

C_2012-S1-_ISON_14sept2013b Gianluca Masi Sept 14

But closer to home ISON is now being imaged by UK observers now! Up in Northumberland, the brilliant team at the Kielder Observatory have been targetting ISON with their ‘scopes, and despite our typically rubbish weather have managed to take photos! Here’s their latest…

BUGP6k6CMAA_7Yi.jpg large kielder sept 14

ISON is still waaaay beyond my own personal visibility horizon – too small a scope, too light polluted a sky – but hopefully in another two or three weeks I’ll get my first look at it.

So, just stepping back for a moment, where is ISON at the moment? Here you go…


ISON is now way past Jupiter and closing in rapdily on Mars. And that means a very interesting photo op is looming on the horizon – not for us, here on Earth, but for the robot inhabitants of the Red Planet…

At the start of October ISON will fly past Mars at a close distance, and that’s when the cameras of the various rovers on, and orbiters around, Mars will turn towards it and try to take images of it before it speeds past…


Look out for a special post on that soon… 🙂

Meanwhile, ISON continues to be targetted by the Internet’s nutters, fruit loops and whackos, just as other comets have been in the past, but worse this time, because now they have Twitter and YouTube to spread their rubbish, and both those social media communities are now absolutely infested with Tweets and videos declaring ISON is going to destroy the world, is a fleet of UFOs (yes, people are still going on about that, even tho it has been explained by the Hubble team), is a single large UFO, or worse. What is especially pathetic is when people deliberately take screenshots or clips from videos or websites scientifically explaining the facts behind ISON and then Photoshop or edit them to turn them into craziness. Guess it just goes to show that some people are just sad losers with no lives, and they need to draw attention to themselves with things like this to get through the day. But pitiful, really.

But some of us are resisting this seemingly overwhelming tide of stupidity, and recently Australian amateur astronomer and blogger Ian Musgrave wrote a spectacularly brilliant post on his blog laying on the line the absolute truth about Comet ISON, going through all the conspiracy theories and whacko claims one by one. You can find his post here…

Comet ISON FAQ For The Perplexed

Fantastic post Terry, well done again. 🙂

So, there we are… ISON is behaving itself nicely as I type this, and all we can do now is wait and see what happens with and to it as it gradually gets closer and closer. In the next few weeks we’ll see it becoming visible in smaller telescopes, and will also see the first ISON dedicated astronomy magazine specials on the shelves. Soon, too, the comet should start to be photographed by some of the wor;d’s Big Gun telescopes, and I’m looking forward to seeing those images and the fine detail they should show.

SEPTEMBER 11th 2013

I headed up to the castle at stupid o’clock this morning to pin down, once and for all, where ISON will be in *my* sky later in the year. I have known for ages roughly where it will be – eastish, basically – but I wanted to really get a grip on where it would be in relation to the castle ruins and the skyline. I also wanted to test out all my various lenses together, to compare them to each other, and to test them on the famous Orion Nebula to see how big ISON *might* look through them *if* it turns on as we hope it will. And finally I also wanted to try and get some pics of Mars close to the famous Beehive Cluster, M44. Because of the rubbish weather I missed Mars approaching and passing through M44, but the forecast was for a pretty clear sky this morning, so up I went, laden down with gear, ready to recce the site in preparation for the arrival of ISON.

Of course, by the time I got to the castle the sky had got a bit misty, but I wasn’t going to give up just because of that, and started taking test shots. Here’s one of “Orion Rising” through my fast 50mm lens set on a reasonably fast ISO number and processed afterwards…


A lot of light pollution up there at the castle, as you can see, but I’m going to have to put up with that because it’s the nearest dark(ish) place I can access on foot. And what about Mars and that star cluster?



Cloud and mist came and went, but eventually the Sword of Orion appeared clearly so I took some test shots of that. Very pleased with how they turned out, I must admit…


Ok, so it’s trailed on that 145s exposure through my 300mm lens, but still quite impressive. ISON should look pretty with that!

So far so good. There was one nasty surprise, tho. I used to have a really nice, reasonably dark view to the NE up there, with a dark horizon and nothing too intrusive in the way of lights. Look what some NUMPTIE has put up on a building over there!!!!


What the hell is THAT?!?!?!? Look at the glare coming off it! Going to have to see if I can do something about that, that’s ridiculous…

Anyway, yes, it was a very worthwhile trip, even at such a ridiculous time, because it allowed me to finally pin down exactly where ISON will be later in the year, which means I can start to plan observing sessions and photographs in advance – time VERY well spent when our stupid weather means I might be grabbing ten minutes here and ten minutes there when ISON is brightening come Oct and November. Here’s what I worked out…

panorama frame txt

…which means I’ll (hopefully!) be having *these* views of ISON later in the year… (note: tail length strictly made up, but I live in hope it might actually look like this!)

Oct 11 0424

Oct 30 0424

Nov 18 0524

(Ignore the starry background on that one. I know ISON will be nowhere near Orion, I just haven’t got rid of the stars on the original image yet!)

Dec 5 0624

So, that was time very well spent I think. I now have a much clearer idea of what my lenses can and can’t do; I know exactly where ISON will be in my own local sky later in the year; and I can start planning some “pretty pictures” with the comet and castle in together. I also know, although I knew that already, that if I’m to see ISON at its best I’m going to have to get out of Kendal to somewhere properly dark. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

It’s all starting to feel a lot more real now, isn’t it? And with more and more images of ISON appearing every day, showing ISON’s tail growing and becoming better defined, it’s hard not to feel a little more confident that we might actually have something really nice to look at in the sky later this year. And it turns out ISON will have company! Comet detective Terry Lovejoy has found another comet, and by pure coincidence it will appear in the same part of the sky as Comet ISON. Great! Two for one! Well, actually we’ll have not two, but THREE comets in the same part of the sky for a while! WHAT?!?!?!? What’s going on?!?!?!?! CONSPIRACY!!!! DOOMSDAY!!!! NIBIRU!!!! WORMWOOD!!!! THE END IS NIGH  – !!!!

No, not really. This is just how things turn out sometimes. I have a post all about it on my Cumbrian Sky blog, which you can read here…

Comet Convoy

Word of warning if you’re an ISON loony or a Nibiri Nutter: you’re not going to like it….

Finally, as I update this post it’s the early hours of September 12th, which is the first anniversary of the discovery of Comet ISON. Happy anniversary little icy fella! Of course, ISON was around a lot, lot longer than that, but we only found it a year ago. A year… what a year… A year ago none of us had any idea how big a story this comet was going to become, or how much rubbish was going to be written about and draped over it. But that’s just the way of things now, any science story, particularly astronomical story, is hijacked by people with porridge (I almost typed something else there!) for brains. Never mind. The rest of us, and most of you, dear readers, will be happy to just look up at the sky later this year and, hopefully, enjoy seeing a naked eye comet above our homes. Not long to go now…

SEPTEMBER 6th 2013

Look at this! Look at THIS!!!

Peach Sept 4

That’s a photo of Comet ISON taken by astrophotographer extraordinaire Damien Peach. Isn’t it a beauty? ISON is looking, well, like a proper comet now, isn’t it? With a tail and everything in the right place? No longer is it just a fuzzy… something… it’s a real comet, standing out from the starfield behind it. That’s more like it. That’s what we’ve been wanting to see. That makes all this seem, well, much more real, don’t you think?

Winter is coming. So is Comet ISON.  🙂

Now before we all get too carried away tho, it’s important to stress that Damien is one of the world’s most accomplished astrophotographers, observing and photographing the universe from a beautifully dark site, with kick ass equipment, so his first detailed photo of ISON was never going to be a let down. But that’s not the point. The point is ISON is now within the grasp of amateur observers , their telescopes and cameras; it’s no longer the preserve of The Professionals.  Anyone, with the right equipment, a good observing site and, yes, a little luck with weather etc, can see and image ISON. And if you take a look at the Realtime Comet Gallery over on the brilliant Spaceweather.com site you can see that there are now lots of people submitting images of Comet ISON…


But what is ISON actually **doing**? And what do we now think it will do later in the year? Are we still on track for a bright naked eye comet?

You’ll know from recent updates here on WfI that things hadn’t been looking too good for ISON. It wasn’t as bright, or brightening, as hoped or expected. Some in the comet community were already – with some hand-wringing relish, it has to be said – writing it off as a Dud In Waiting. Others, less pessimistic, were urging patience, and caution, pointing out that it’s still waaay too early to know what is going to happen to ISON when and after it rounds the Sun at the end of November. And now?

Well, the most recent observations are still rather confusing, I think it’s fair to say. From what I can understand – and I’m no expert – taken one way they show the comet is actually fading. But analysed another way, it’s right on track to be visible to the naked eye with ease at year’s end. No-one seems sure what is going on with it, and no-one should be making any serious predictions about what ISON’s future holds, that’s for sure. But that’s understandable. ISON is still a long, long way off. It’s in an area of the sky that’s still quite bright because of its proximity to the Sun, and it’s so low that the big bad professional telescopes in their glamourous mountaintop observatories can’t see it…


ISON is still doing its best to hide its secrets from us. But amateurs aren’t restricted by time, money or low elevations. They’re getting out there, at stupid o’clock in the morning, driving away from the light pollution to a dark sky site and tracking ISON down, taking images like the one above that show that ISON is there, is active, is becoming more active, and that’s what we have to concentrate on. Don’t listen to the Doom mongerers and those who would have you believe that ISON is The Ghost of Kohoutek, dragging icy, dusty chains behind it as crawls towards the light of the Sun. ISON is now visible to the telescopes of (some) amateurs, not just professionals, and that means we’re in a whole new phase of this great comet adventure.

Personally I realise I’m still an age off seeing it myself. I’ve only got a small telescope – my humble but faithful 4.5″ reflector – and ISON is a good month or so away from becoming visible in its eyepiece, but I can wait.

If I have to.


Meanwhile, the dribbling, drooling Nutter element seems to have decided that ISON is responsible for… hang on, let me count them off on my fingers here… ok…  the conflict in Syria… the financial crisis in Europe… Earthquakes near Japan… there are probably more, but I can’t be bothered to list them. Remarkably, even after all the patient explanations of the processing behind the images, some of the fruit loops are still insisting that recent images of ISON taken by the Hubble Space Telescope show it is actually being accompanied by a pair of UFOs. This has led to the Hubble team posting ANOTHER explanation on their excellent ISON blog…

HubbleSite – ISONblog – What’s Going On With This Comet ISON Image?

It’s a fascinating read, and I’m sure it will clear up the confusion for many people. Probably not the die hard ISON Nutters tho, they’re too far into their delusional fantasies to let something as simple as a FULL EXPLANATION BY THE TEAM WHICH TOOK TE ACTUAL ******* PICTURES stand in the way of the best Conspiracy Theory story they’ve had since the Mayan Calendar was going to end and kill us all… as was the Y2K bug… as was Comet Elenin all those years ago, remember?

Another brigade of the Loony Tunes Army – which seems to be attracting more and more recruits every day – is convinced, and screaming out to the world, that ISON is actually Nibiru, and that it is going to End All Human Life On Earth!!!! As I’ve pointed out to several of them the only problem with that idea is that NIBIRU IS TOTALLY MADE UP GARBAGE CREATED BY SAD, SCIENCE IGNORANT LOSERS WHO KNOW NOTHING ABOUT ASTRONOMY AND LIVE IN A ******** FANTASY WORLD.

Yeah, that went down well as you can imagine… 🙂

I know, that might seem a bit harsh, and it has been suggested to me that some of the people posting this kind of thing might have mental problems, and should be treated with sympathy and compassion. But I’m sorry, when stuff like this appears on Twitter…


…then the whacko on the other end of the broadband connection doing the typing deserves all the “feedback” they get. Like their equally deluded relations the “Apollo Hoax Believers”  I have no sympathy for them. I mean, come on. They’re smart enough to have a computer, to know how to work a computer, so they’re not complete cretins. They live lives surrounded by and drenched in science. So why do they put out and believe anti-science crap like that? It baffles me, it really does. They’re either seriously and genuinely deluded people, or they’re attention-seeking nut jobs. Sad either way. And earlier today I was actually called a troll by someone who was insisting to me during a quite constructive Twitter exchange with someone else – that he took over – that comets arent made of ice but are chunks of metal, and ISON will “spark” off the Sun when it goes around it, just like Comet Elenin did back in 2011…

I know…


I’m often asked why I bother even getting into discussions with these people. Well, what happened this morning is a good example of why. As I said, I was having a genuinely interesting discussion about Comet ISON and the now infamous “Hubble UFO” images with someone who really wanted to know what they showed, because she was puzzled by them and needed information. I was happily giving that information – I’m an Outreacher, it’s what I do – when someone else jumped in talking about “electric universes” and metal sparky CME-deflecting comets. Nonsense. But hopefully the lady I was originally talking to will now do a bit of proper research about comets, and might even use my blogs to go out and see and enjoy ISON later in the year. I hope she does. I hope she takes herself off somewhere dark, looks at the sky and sees a naked eye comet glowing in the dusk or dawn. That’s something much more exciting and amazing than a silly bloody UFO or make-believe planet. If she does that , this morning’s Tweeting will have been time well spent. The other guy? Well, if he chooses to live in ignorance and delusion, when the internet has a wealth of free and accurate scientific info available at the click of a mouse or the touch of a screen well, that’s up to him.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, where comets are made of ice and aren’t being followed by UFOs or Nibiru, or both, some very interesting predictions of Comet ISON’s physical appearance after perihelion have been made by Uwe Pilz, the same astronomer who predicted the appearance of Comet PANSTARRS earlier this year. Here’s a comparison between one of Uwe’s predictions for PANSTARRS and a photo of the actual comet taken on the same date. How accurated do you think he was..?


And what has Uwe predicted for ISON? Well, interestingly, his computer program suggests a new and rather different view of Comet ISON in Nov/Dec than we’ve all been anticipating.

You’ll recall that recently comet expert John Bortle predicted a very long, very straight tail for a post-perihelion ISON? Like a long, narrow torch beam in the sky? Well, Uwe’s new computer simulations show a more – a much more – curved tail for early December, more like a scimitar blade than a longsword blade, which is fascinating. No way of knowing yet if he’s right, of course, too many variables still and ISON is still a helluva long way away, so this is all just throwing sugar into the air, but maybe when we were expecting this


…which is a photo of the great Comet Ikeya-Seki from the 60s, we might actually get something like this…


…which is a reversed image of Comet McNaught. If we see that, even a faint version of that, I’ll be more than happy, and I’m sure you would be too!

Anyway, you know me, always the tinkerer, so I took Uwe’s computer simulations and, with a bit of Photoshop work (which is becoming increasingly frustrating and time consuming on this ageing, stuttering, clunking computer, believe me…) I added them to STARRY NIGHT screenshots to give a slightly more realistic view of what he’s predicting. So, take a look at these, but please bear in mind, as I always say, that I’m not putting these forward as scientificaly accurate, or valuable, this is just me playing about for my own amusement and curiosity in the hope of making something others will find interesting and useful.

What might we see later in the year then..?

1 - Dec 1 after sunset + UWEb

3 - Dec 2 7pm+UWEb

5 - Dec 3 4 20pm+UWEb

7 - Dec 10 5am+UWEb

Very interesting… Will we see something like this on December 3rd after sunset..?

Dec 3 420pm c

As I keep saying, we’ll have to wait and see… 🙂

And news today of another forthcoming ISON “media publication”!

discover mag

That will be hitting the shelves on October 1st. Looking forward to that! I know some of the Experienced Comet Observers will be looking down their noses at it, and at the other publications due to be… published… but I think it’s great people are producing ISON specials, I really do. The public are going to want to see this comet, and not everyone has access to a local astronomical society to ask for advice, so to be able to go into a newsagents and buy something like that, with easy to understand advice and charts will be a godsend. So the comet Skeksis can say what they want. I’m going to buy these myself and, assuming they *are* good, recommend them to others too.

And I think that’s it for this update. To summarise: ISON is looking pretty in photographs being taken through large telescopes, and is now visible through telescope eyepieces too. After giving us all a bit of a scare it seems to be behaving itself again, and even if we may have to banish thoughts of ISON being “spectacular”we may yet be on course for a good naked eye comet later in the year. It’s still too early to tell. But what really gives me hope for ISON’s future, personally, is an image I saw posted on Twitter yesterday…

200mm lens

That image was taken with JUST a 200mm camera lens. Not a telescope, a camera lens (which is a bit like a small telescope, I know, stop being picky!). It looks like the camera was driven during the 200 second exposure, or the image is lots of shorter exposures stacked together, but that’s not the point. The point is ISON is now not just a telescopic object, it’s essentially a deep sky photographic object for good cameras too. And that’s very exciting. It means, in theory, that if I went out tomorrow morning and took a bunch of images through my camera, and stacked them together, *I* might even be able to photograph ISON myself…

Yeah, I might give that a go.

Check back soon, ok? And thanks again for visiting Waiting for ISON, I appreciate it.



4 Responses to “Updates: September 2013”

  1. […] auf der Kippe), der Transport des ISON-Ballons BRRISON zum Startgelände, weitere ISON-Updates hier, hier und hier, Encke am 7.9. und 6.9. mit extrem diffuser Koma, Beobachtungen am Main Belt Comet […]

  2. Regarding your willingness to engage the tinfoil hat crowd: Keep fighting the good fight. As an informal astronomy educator, I feel your pain.

  3. God u must get sick of debunking all the morons i too saw the utube vid , Does Ison.have a biosphere ??? Haha what a joke, some ppl commet that your replys are to harsh i think there awesome these doomsayer time wasters need to be put in there place keep up the good work
    regular blog reader Amy 🙂

  4. I have to laugh, but when you google ‘comet ison’ the second result is Nibiru! sorry stu:)

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