SCIENCE

Comet Coming In 2013: ISON May Appear Brighter Than Full Moon As It Passes Earth (VIDEO)

12/31/2012 01:36 pm ET | Updated Dec 31, 2012

It's being called the "comet of the century" -- a dazzling astronomical display that may prove to be brighter than the full moon. Comet ISON may give us earthlings a "once-in-a-lifetime light show" if it appears in the sky in 2013, astronomer David Whitehouse wrote in The Independent.

Reuters writes:

The recently discovered object…is due to fly within 1.2 million miles (1.9 million km) from the center of the sun on November 28, 2013…

As the comet approaches, heat from the sun will vaporize ices in its body, creating what could be a spectacular tail that is visible in Earth's night sky without telescopes or even binoculars from about October 2013 through January 2014.

First spotted in September by amateur astronomers from Russia, the comet -- which likely broke free from the Oort Cloud -- is currently hurtling toward the Sun somewhere "in the vicinity of Jupiter's orbit," CNET reported. According to NASA, the comet is expected to come very close to Mars in October 2013 before it continues toward the sun.

Experts say Comet ISON's path is similar to that of another comet that passed by Earth in 1680 with a tail reportedly so radiant that it could be seen in daylight.

But skywatchers, be warned: ISON's dazzling light show will take place only if the comet survives, astronomers say. It could break apart as it approaches the sun. It could also "flame out early," according to CNET.

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