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John Wheeler, WDAY, Published December 29 2012

Weather Talk: Forecast predicts 2013 as ‘Year of the Comet’

Next year is optimistically being called “the Year of the Comet” by many astronomers. Two comets are expected to be visible to us in the Northern Hemisphere during the year.

The first, Comet PANSTARRS (an acronym for the group that discovered it, Panoramic Survey Telescope And Rapid Response System), is expected to become visible from mid-March into April as a bright object in the western evening sky. But the big show, Comet ISON (International Scientific Optical Network), could become as bright as the moon during late November and December as it passes just 750,000 miles from the surface of the sun and “only” 28 million miles from Earth.

This proximity should vaporize much of the comet, potentially producing a spectacularly bright comet head and tail. However, comet predicting is as fickle as predicting the weather; it is difficult to tell how bright a comet will be until it begins to interact with the sun. Hopefully, these comets will live up to the forecast.

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