Comet ISON 2012 S1 Visible With Unaided Eye

Comet ISON can now be seen with the unaided eye in moderately light polluted skies.  It is difficult to see.  One needs to know exactly where to look in the skies.  The coma is moderately easy to spot.  The tail is barely visible.  My location was a short distance outside of Orlando, FL, at the corner of Travistock Lakes Blvd and Narcoossee Road. 

These photos use camera settings that approximate my personal vision.  As a 59 year old, I'm not surprised that others report better views with the unaided eye.   These photos were taken at 5:48 am November 23, 2013, Eastern Time. 


Comet ISON - binoculars or unaided eye?

Reports are coming in that people have seen Comet ISON with binoculars.  This morning there were reports that it was visible with the unaided eye. 

Here is my picture of Comet ISON taken with a wide angle view.  If you look reeeeeal close, you can see it - just behind the FEW clouds that lingered this morning!  The comet's position is just below the cloud line.  As the morning progressed, more clouds arrived.

Such is the life of the astronomer - we can't control the weather.


Comet ISON - Two Tailed Comet !!!

My observations of Comet ISON show a second tail in the photographs taken November 11, 2013.  

The presence of two tails is a sign that the comet is getting closer to the sun (ISON will be closest to the sun on November 28th, just a few days away).  

The prominent tail is called the ion tail.  It is composed of ionized gas molecules created by solar wind (charged particles that move very quickly from the sun).  This tail points almost directly away from the sun, and has nothing to do with the direction the comet is traveling.  As the comet moves away from the sun, the tail leads the way.  Right now, as the comet moves toward the sun, the body of the comet is followed by the tail.

The small tail that appears to be a line separated from the ion tail above it in the photos is the dust tail.  This is composed of small dust particles that come from the comet's nucleus which are being pushed away by light pressure from the sun.  The materials in the dust tail are heavier than those in the ion tail and therefore tend to stay where they fall.

There are always two tails, but as the comet nears the sun these diverge, and it is this divergence that enables them to be seen as separate objects. 

Actually, if you look closely, I think you can see a third tail.