• The Great Comets of 2013

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    It’s been 15 years since the last ‘Great Comet’ Hale-Bopp appeared in our skies. But 2013 heralds not one, but two ‘Great Comets’.

    Comets are actually lumps of ice and dust which have travelled from the outer solar system.   Astrologically comets herald change and transformation, although in medieval times they were regarded fearfully as bad omens.

    The first comet, which will pass within 102 million miles from Earth at its closest, is called Pan-STARRS, so named by the scientists who first discovered it in 2011 using the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii.   On January 21st Comet Pan-STARRS crosses inside the orbit of the Earth, on February 3rd it moves inside the orbit of Venus and will be at its closest to the Sun on March 10th.    It will actually first appear in the northern hemisphere skies on March 6th when it should be visible from London, Cardiff and Cork and it will reach its maximum brightness around March 9th or 10th, when maybe the long tail will be visible.  On March 12th it will be close to the new crescent Moon, with the Moon possibly close to its tail on March 13th.

    The second Great Comet – Comet ISON – could, however, be the comet of the century and brighter than the full moon, possibly as bright as the Great Comet of 1680 which was said to have an exceptionally long tail and so bright that it could be seen in daylight. This is all dependent on Comet ISON surviving its perihelion run-in with the Sun and, if it does, it is expected to be approximately 15 times more brilliant than the Moon.

    Comet ISON, which should be visible in mid-November, has, in fact, taken millions of years to reach us, travelling from the Oort cloud where our Sun is just a distant point of light. ISON will pass through Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius between the summer and the end of the year.    Perhaps the most critical point, however,  will be in October this year.   During the early part of October Comet-ISON meets Mars in Leo coinciding with a build-up to the fourth of seven clashes between Sky God Uranus and God of the Underworld Pluto, themselves heralding disruption, change and potential rebellions on a grand scale.