By now, you’ve heard about the spectacular promise of Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON), which could outshine Venus by the time it graces our early morning sky in November 2013 (and yes, perhaps shine as bright as the Full Moon in a daytime sky, when it’s a mere 1.3° away from the Sun). This sungrazing comet is causing quite a fuss, and even if it doesn’t quite live up to the predicted magnitudes, it could still be the brightest comet we’ve ever seen.
For now, however, ISON glows dimly at magnitude 16 and hovers in the constellation Gemini. Just to give you a real-world image of what it looks like, astroimager John Chumack shot the comet last night. He used a 16-inch f/4.5 reflector with a QHY 8 CCD camera and stacked exposures from his observatory in Dayton, Ohio. The image was taken at 5h15m UT on January 8, 2013, when the comet’s precise magnitude was 16.28. As you’ll see, the field also contains the 8th-magnitude star SAO 60312 and the 17th-magnitude galaxy PGC 1926403.
Nice shot, John!