Two Comets in One Portland-Area Viewing Party
(Portland, Oregon) – Two big comets are coming into view this weekend, and OMSI will host a comet viewing party in Estacada to help celebrate this stellar event and give people a chance to check out the two space travelers.
Comets ISON and Lovejoy will be the center of attention on Saturday, November 23, at a Comet Viewing Party held at Milo McIver State Park in Estacada from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m.
The event, sponsored by OMSI, the Rose City Astronomers, and Oregon Parks and Recreations will have telescopes set up for attendees to use. OMSI Space Science Director, Jim Todd, will be presenting informal talks about the comets and the autumn night sky. As a bonus, ISON will be 4.7 degrees to the planet Mercury and Saturn, respectively. In addition, the International Space Station will be visible at 5:16 am.
In September 2012 Comet ISON became breaking news, billed as the ‘comet of the century.’ Since then, there has been much media speculation about the comet's current state. The latest observations strongly indicate the comet is gradually increasing in brightness and should continue to be a naked eye object in the coming days.
OMSI planetarium manager Jim Todd said ISON is less than 43 million miles from the Sun and will get to Mercury's orbit by this weekend.
“ ISON will come to perihelion (its closest approach to the Sun) on November 28, passing approximately 680,000 miles above the Sun's surface,” Todd said. “At that time, the comet will either break apart because of the sun’s intense energy or survive the journey and continue around the Sun.”
Predicting the brightness of a comet is not an easy task, especially one such as ISON passes so close to the Sun. Still, astronomers say there is considerable evidence that ISON could reach apparent magnitude of +4 to +5, making it visible without the aid of optics.
There is, however, sizable evidence the comet will be too close to the sun at one point and thus not visible due to the glare.
Todd said another flying body, Comet Lovejoy (C/2013 R1) is now brighter than Comet ISON by nearly an order of magnitude.
“As it passes just outside Earth's orbit in mid-November, Lovejoy will be nearly as bright as Comet ISON” Todd said.
On the scheduled day of the Comet Viewing Party, it is suggested that interested visitors call the OMSI Star Parties Hotline, (503) 797-4000 #3 then #5, or check the OMSI Star Parties web site http://www.omsi.edu/starparties for possible weather-related cancellations. The event starts at 5 a.m. and is free with $5 parking per vehicle. Warm clothing is a must, and a flashlight with red light is recommended. Personal telescopes and binoculars are always welcome.
To reach Milo McIver State Park (24101 S Entrance Road, Estacada, OR), from I-205, take OR-213 S to Redland Road unto S. Redland Road, turn right on S. Springwater Road and turn left to S Entrance Road. The park is located 23 miles southeast of Portland.