Comet C/2012 S1 ISON at Perihelion

Today comet C/2012 S1 ISON will pass through perihelion, its closest approach to the Sun.

At a mere 1,800,000km (1,100,000miles) this will be a close pass indeed. As perihelion is measured from center to center, the distance is even closer if you consider the 695,500km (432,200mile) radius of the Sun. Subtracting the solar radius you realize the comet will pass a mere 1,100,000km (680,000miles) above the surface of the Sun. At this distance the intensity of the solar radiation will be nineteen thousand times more intense than a sunny day on Earth. Hot indeed!!

C/2006 P1McNaught
C/2006 P1 McNaught while 5° from the Sun on Jan 14,2007
While the comet is so close to the Sun volatile gasses will be streaming off the comet in huge quantities creating an extremely bright comet. It is fairly likely that the comet will be visible in the daytime. If so, it will appear much as C/2006 P1 McNaught appeared in January 2007 just a few degrees from the Sun, potentially visible to the unaided eye.

At closest approach the comet will be less than a degree from the Sun, difficult to pick out. An observers best bet will be as it approaches and as it moves away from the solar disk. As the comet nears perihelion it will approach the Sun from the west, best seen in the dawn sky. After perihelion it will exit the Sun’s vicinity to the north, favoring northern hemisphere observers.

The comet should be spectacular in the cameras of the dedicated solar observation satellites. Check out the real time views from SOHO or Stereo.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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