A new comet named C/2012 S1 (ISON) was discovered on September 21 by Russian astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok using the International Scientific Optical Network’s (ISON) telescope. The comet is expected to come within 1.1 million miles of the sun on or around, November 29, 2013 and could be seen by the naked eye from early November 2013 to January 2014.
Doomsday lovers will be disappointed. Comet C/2012 S1 will not even come close to Earth and yet it may be one of the brightest comet encounters in human history. Karl Battams, of the NASA-supported Sungrazer Comet PrONect, told Spaceweather.com:
In the best case, the comet is big, bright, and skirts the sun next November. It would be extremely bright — negative magnitudes maybe — and naked-eye visible for observers in the Northern Hemisphere for at least a couple of months.
C/2012 S1 is expected to be brighter than both Hale-Bopp 1997 and Haley’s Comet 1986 — which only passed within 84 million and 54 million miles of the sun, respectively. On October 1, 2013 the comet will swing by Mars and then pass by Earth on December 26, 2013. Amateur astronomers will be able to easily spot the comment in the next few months.
As astronomers find more new comets heading towards Earth, Serious Wonder thinks we should be considering the feasibility of an advanced warning system. The idea has been on the table for quite some time and yet as we see in this case, had this been a direct threat to Earth we would only have a year to respond. A frightening concept considering we are floating within a fragile eco-spaceship dangling in the middle of a chaotic cosmos! We know from Earth’s history that a collision would not serve humanity well. In fact, it almost certainly would cause a near or total extinction event. Should we send “guardian spaceships” out to orbit Earth and protect us from these astral threats? If so, what technology will we need, and should it be privatized or military?