Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published July 14th 2013
Astronomy is looking up
Something big is coming: a huge comet named Comet ISON, which could become the brightest comet ever to pass by the earth!
We will see it with home telescopes by the end of summer 2013, and by November it should be visible with the naked eye.
In late November 2013 this comet will pass very close to the Sun and may then be bright enough to be seen in the daytime. A few weeks later the comet's outward trajectory will bring it to just 0.4 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun.
[ADVERT]This visit from Comet ISON has been extensively discussed by commentators from the northern hemisphere, but what will we see from Australia?
The comet was discovered on 24 September by two amateur astronomers in Belarus and Russia. The path of comet ISON is believed to be very similar to that of the comet of 1680. This bright comet had an important role in the history of science for Isaac Newton carefully plotted its path and established that it was a parabola as required under his Universal Law of Gravitation.
Comet ISON will pass just 1.2 million km from the Sun on 29 November 2013 (Australian time). From Earth it will be about one degree from the Sun. At that time it may appear sufficiently bright to be visible in daytime, however, comets are notoriously fickle and this one may not perform as expected.
It will probably be worth trying to look in the vicinity of the Sun a day or two before closest approach and for a few days after. More information can be found on the Perth Observatory website.
Welcome to the scary and expensive world of buying your first, or replacing your old telescope.
What telescope should I buy? or What telescope do I need to see ISON with? Nine times out of ten, you will hear a Dobsonian Telescope recommended. So what is a Dobsonian telescope and why are they so good?
A Dobsonian is simplicity in itself; a simple set of optics on a simple mount. But don't be fooled by this simplicity. Dobsonian telescopes are incredibly good and are great for amateurs and professional astronomers alike. They are also very economical compared to other telescopes.
Dobsonian/Newtonian telescopes have a big advantage over telescopes with lenses such as refractors, as mirrors are a lot cheaper to make than lenses. Plus they can be a lot bigger!
Both Dobsonian and Newtonian telescopes are measured by the size of the diameter of their primary (big) mirror. Dobsonian sizes range from starter scopes of 6 inches up to 30 inches, but common sizes are 8 to 16 inches in diameter. They can be many times larger and less expensive to produce than scopes with lenses.
A Dobsonian is a great all-around telescope, and are available in almost all telescope stores. Because of the robust simplicity, they are very economical and popular with astronomers of all levels of ability.
Dobsonian telescope are so called from John Dobson, who combined the simple design of the Newtonian telescope with the Alt-Azimuth mount. He originally made simple homemade scopes from household materials and ground mirrors out of the glass of old ship portholes.
Midland Camera House has a limited supply of 8" Dobson Telescopes available at $499, a substantial saving off the RRP.
NOTE that it is always dangerous to look directly at the Sun. Do not use telescopes or binoculars to search for the comet in daylight, just your unaided eyes and block the Sun with a post or other convenient object. Take extreme care!
"We will see it with home telescopes by the end of summer 2013, and by November it should be visible with the naked eye..."
Summer starts December 1 here. The net is abuzz about this comet. Check out youtube for an array of oppinions.
After a journey of over five million years, from beyond our solar system, Comet ISON is no more, having been destroyed as it ventured too close to the Sun. Early on the morning of Thursday 28 November the so called "comet of the century" reached perihelion, its closest approach to the Sun where it was ripped apart by the Sun's powerful gravitational and tidal forces.