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HindustanTimes Thu,24 Apr 2014

Life and Universe

Newly-discovered comet 2012 S1 to outshine the Moon?
PTI
Washington, October 03, 2012
First Published: 11:41 IST(3/10/2012)
Last Updated: 12:04 IST(3/10/2012)
It may well turn out to be a glowing gift for stargazers!

A newly-discovered comet may become one of the brightest lights in the sky - even outshining the Moon, astronomers including an Indian-origin scientist have claimed.

Russian astronomers recently spotted the comet 2012 S1 (ISON) 90 million kilometres from the Earth, the 'National Geographic' reported.
Russian astronomers recently spotted the comet 2012 S1 (ISON) 90 million kilometres from the Earth

It is currently a faint glow streaking between Saturn and Jupiter, but as the Sun's gravity draws the comet closer, dust and ice will be blasted off, giving it a highly-reflective tail.

The comet is already remarkably bright, given how far it is from the Sun, astronomer Raminder Singh Samra said. Depending on how big the tail gets, the three-kilometre wide comet may become more visible for a few months in late 2013 and early 2014.

"If it lives up to expectations, this comet may be one of the brightest in history," Samra from H R MacMillan Space Centre in Canada told National Geographic.

The comet seems to be following the path of the Great Comet of 1690, which was one of the most stunning ever seen from Earth.

It should also pass about 10 million kilometres from Mars, possibly providing Nasa's new Curiosity rover with a spectacular view.

However, Samra warned that scientists should be cautious about predicting the brightness of comets, as they have failed to live up to expectations in the past.

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