Comet ISON: An Introduction

The excitement in the air is palpable. The internet is flooded with articles, news stories, and blog posts. Astronomers across the globe are polishing their telescope lenses, and wiping down their solar filters. Comet ISON is coming to a sky near you later this year, and there it will shine brighter than the moon , providing amazement, awe and inspiration to the world, and heralding forth a new era of peace and serenity across our planet!

Comet ISON viewed by Hubble.
Bit much, yes? We think so too, and must confess we may have elaborated a tad towards the end there, but over the past couple of months there have been rather too many Comet ISON articles appearing online with information that frequently is at best speculative, and occasionally just plain wrong. So why, given an apparent distaste for such hype, are we about to throw yet another hat into the ring? Comet ISON is a tremendously promising comet, and we (the CIOC Team) are naturally very excited, hence the Observing Campaign! But we felt we should perhaps take this opportunity to pepper the recent hype with a generous dose of fact, reality and objective information. We’re certainly not trying to rain on any parade, but what we want to do is present the facts as we as comet scientists currently understand them, explain what we do know, what we don’t know, what we might see, and what we definitely won’t see.

Originally this series of pages about Comet ISON was planned as one single article, but we kept adding extra pieces of information here and there, and before we knew it we’d written an encyclopedia! Not wanting to throw out useful information, we decided to turn this into a multi-page effort, which is a little nontraditional for popular science articles like this but seems warranted here. So we have broken the story down into manageable chunks that cover the comet's current status, history (recent and distant), current status, possible future outcomes, and our plans for observing it at perihelion with solar spacecraft.

The History -- >