Today, at 1:24:57pm Eastern time (18:24:57 UT) Comet ISON will be at its perihelion with the sun, meaning it’ll be at its closest with the sun for this orbit. ISON will be passing within 1.2-million kilometers (730,000 miles) of the Sun – close enough that ISON will actually enter the Sun’s corona, forcing it to endure temperatures of a million or so degrees (Celsius) for a few seconds. The comet will either survive it’s fiery pass or it’ll break up and be destroyed. Right now, ISON is estimated to have a visual magnitude of about -5, and it could get brighter during (and after) the perihelion. For reference, Venus has an apparent magnitude of –4.9 at its brightest. So, right now, ISON is brighter than Venus.
HOW TO WATCH IT:
In case you are interested, you can actually watch ISON today as it makes a grazing pass with the Sun, but you have to be VERY careful because you don’t want go blind in the process.
For the purposes of this explanation, we’ll assume that ISON will be about as bright as Venus (which is visible during the day if you know where to look). ISON will be within a couple of degrees of the Sun all day today, so the real trick to spot the Comet will be to play with the Sun without getting burned to a crisp in the process. At the moment of perihelion, ISON will be about 0.5 degrees from the Sun, so it will be (almost) impossible to spot with the naked eye.
**NOTE: Throughout the day, extremely skilled astronomers might try using binoculars or telescopes to help get a clearer view of the Comet. Unless if you have proper equipment, FQTQ doesn’t advice you try that because it’s not worth it if you miss the Comet and hit the Sun.**
As Always, you should never look directly at the Sun. To view ISON, you need to block out the sun with some (solid) object. Sun filters are a plus, but if you’re not careful you could also cover up the Comet and it’ll be invisible. The advantage of using a solid object is to block out as much light from the Sun as possible (instead of just dimming it), that’ll make spotting ISON easier.
In case it’s cloudy, or if you feel like playing it safe, FQTQ has you covered. We’ll be hosting a live Google Hangout where you can watch us broadcast the feed coming in from NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric (SOHO) Observatory. The hangout will start about 30 minutes before the perihelion on our YouTube channel and we’ll be hosting a live Q&A session at the same time.
We hope to see you there!
(And, please remember, always utilize common sense and safe viewing practices when looking at objects near the sun.)