Visibility of Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) from Southern Africa
Executive summary in two sentences: "In two sentences: Won't be a highlight from South Africa, I'm afraid. Sorry."
The media is full of reports about how glorious Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) will be later this year. Sadly, this will not be case for star gazers in Southern Africa.
Comet ISON will be a non-splendour for us down here. It's in the Cancer region now, heading for Leo in October, Virgo in November and in Ophiuchus in December before rushing northward for Xmas in Hercules and year-end in Draco. The massive spike in brightness is predicted for late-December.
At the time of writing (September 25) the comet is about 14th magnitude - Wayne (aka Mr. Galaxy) reports that on September 14 it was "faint, but clearly detectable, in my 25-inch using about 200x, and quite a bit more difficult but detected using 200x in my 13-inch." He notes that an experienced observer may glimpse it now in an 8-inch using about 200x.
For a finder chart, and news about Comet ISON, visit Seiichi Yoshida's super page http://www.aerith.net, where you'll find a "Weekly Information about Bright Comets" link, as well as the "Visual Comets in the Future" summary. Comet ISON's dedicated page is http://www.aerith.net/comet/catalog/2012S1/2012S1.html.
Update: Monday October 07: Is Comet ISON disintegrating?
In an October 05 press release issued by the Physics and Astrophysics Computation Group (FACom) at the University of Antioquia, Colombia, the authors studied the light curve of comet ISON and noticed features that resemble those seen in light curves of previously observed disintegrating comets.
Prof. Ignacio Ferrin, one of the authors, writes: "the light curve of the comet exhibited a slowdown event characterized by a constant brightness with no indication of a brightness increase tendency. ... when I saw this signature I immediately went to my database of comet light curves, and found that two comets had also presented this signature: Comet C/1996 Q1 Tabur and Comet C/2002 O4 Hönig; to my surprise these two comets had vanished turning off or disintegrating."
Ferrin and the FACom group have published a webpage to monitor the comet's activities - visit it at http://astronomia.udea.edu.co/cometspage for updates and breaking news.
Update: Sunday October 06: Beautiful ISON simulator
Brilliant comet ISON interactive model from the geniuses at SolarSystemScope. Rush over to http://www.solarsystemscope.com/ison/.
nothing more to see. please move along.