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New comet is on path toward sun

Sept. 26, 2012 at 8:31 PM   |   Comments

MOSCOW, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- A new comet discovered by Russian skywatchers could be one of the brightest objects in the sky when it approaches Earth next year, astronomers say.

Presently appearing as just a tiny dot in the sky beyond Jupiter, the comet was discovered Sept. 21 by Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok of the International Scientific Optical Network in Russia and confirmed Tuesday by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass.

Astronomers calculating its near-parabolic orbit say Comet ISON is headed almost straight toward the sun and make its closest approach to it Nov. 28 or 29, 2013, NewScientist.com reported.

The intense heat of that solar fly-by should vaporize the comet's icy surface and release trapped dust that would help it grow an exceptionally bright tail.

It could even be brighter than the full moon around its closest approach to the sun, Astronomy Now magazine said.

The orbit of Comet ISON suggests it is a newcomer fresh from the Oort cloud, a distant ring of icy objects surrounding the solar system, astronomers said.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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