In the Southern Hemisphere? Where and when to see Comet 2012 S1 (ISON) at its best?

October 6, 2012 | By | 2 Comments

Posted Saturday 6 October 2012 As I mentioned in my previous post about Comet 2012 S1 (ISON), Southern hemisphere observers won’t see the comet at its best post perihelion (closest approach to the Sun). The question then arises when can we see the comet next year?

Comet 2012 S1 (ISON) finder chart for Wednesday 20 November 2013 3.15 am AEST. Produced using the Sky Safari Pro Ipad app. Used with permission.

I turned to the Sky Safari Pro Ipad app I frequently use (and highly recommend). Essentially Sky Safari Pro shows us that around the middle of November 2013, we need to be getting up and looking low above the Eastern horizon in the pre-dawn to dawn sky. Unfortunately the Moon will be in the morning sky at that time also. Unless the comet is already extremely bright, this will have a significant negative effect on the visibility of the comet to the unaided eye. Fingers crossed that the comet will already be bright by then!

Comet 2012 S1 (ISON) finder chart for Sunday 8 December 2013 10 am AEST. Produced using the Sky Safari Pro Ipad app. Used with permission.

Post perihelion, Comet 2012 S1 (ISON) will not be visible in the Southern hemisphere night sky due to its orbital path. This means that you either book a flight North of the equator or you attempt to look for the comet in the day sky. This will require extreme caution due to the closeness of the comet to the Sun and the danger to your vision of accidentally looking at the Sun. If the comet is as spectacular as expected, it should be possible to see it in the day sky shortly after it rounds the Sun on 28 November 2013.

My observing plan for looking for the comet in the daytime around this time will be to block the direct light from the Sun by positioning myself to the left side of a building. I will then use binoculars to sweep the day sky to the left of the Sun. If the comet performs as hoped, at least the nucleus of Comet 2012 S1 (ISON) will be visible in the binoculars or perhaps even to the unaided eye.

Do not look directly at the Sun without specialist eye protection sold by reputable telescope shops.

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This website is maintained by Paul Floyd. I am an amateur astronomer (and school teacher) with 21 years experience (as at 2011) in running a range of education and public astronomy outreach activities. As of January 2011, I have been providing astronomy information via the WWW for fourteen years.