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Comet ISON Suddenly Brightens

Saturday, November 23, 2013

 

Comet ISON (photo: Scott MacNeil)

As you may have heard by now, between November 12 and 14, Comet ISON suddenly brightened by two magnitudes (6.3 times brighter). Possibly a new crack or vent on the comet's surface opened up to allow the release of “fresh” material from below. Or perhaps the comet started rotating (some early research had suggested it wasn't). The onset of rotation could allow portions of the comet that had not yet been subjected to the Sun’s heating or solar wind to now react to either of those influences. Speculation has also arisen that ISON's nucleus may be fragmenting.

While astrophotographers have been imaging ISON for some time, only after this recent outburst of activity has the comet been seen with the naked-eye from dark sky locations. I tried to find ISON with a pair of 7x50 binoculars this morning (11/19) from about 4:55 until 5:15am, but to no avail. I could see Virgo's bright star Spica, plus some fainter stars below it, but ISON eluded my detection. I think this was due in part to the just past Full Moon bathing the sky in light, combined with a little low haze within 15 degrees of the southeastern horizon. There was also a cold wind at ground level, and Spica was sparkling like a diamond due to upper atmospheric turbulence.

My good friend and associate, Scott MacNeill, Associate Director of the Frosty Drew Observatory in Ninigret Park in Charlestown, had this to say about his November 15 search for ISON using binoculars: "...when I attempted a view with binoculars on the 15th I overlooked it for about 10 minutes as I thought it was a star in the field. Eventually I noticed the tail using averted vision and was surprised at how bright it was." (Frosty Drew Observatory has exceptional skies!)

Scott was successful in obtaining a telescopic image of ISON that same morning using a Meade 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope. See image attached.

As the week progresses, ISON will move closer to the horizon and a rendezvous with the Sun on Thanksgiving Day. Also, the waning Moon will unfortunately be sliding to the east about 12 degrees each day. Though the moonlight will diminish as its phase decreases to last quarter to waning crescent, it will be moving in the general direction of the comet. Soon an observer will require a dead horizon to the southeast in order to catch a glimpse of ISON, with or without optical aid.

Time will tell if the brightening is a short-lived effect or not. It is possible ISON could still provide some outstanding naked-eye views during the next week. Whether it will survive its close encounter with the Sun is still a matter for speculation.

 

Related Slideshow: 12 Romantic Fall Getaways in Massachusetts

Here are some of the best options for a romantic weekend getaway this fall.  So grab your loved one and head out to one of these destinations: 

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Red Lion Inn

Take a trip out west to the Berkshires and stay at one of the longest continuously operated inns in New England. The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge has been welcoming guests since 1773, and has hosted five presidents, as well as many notable figures, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and William Cullen Bryant. You may feel like you are in a Norman Rockwell painting; because you are. The inn is located two doors down from the famed artist's original studio, and has been featured in one of his most iconic paintings. Take a stroll down Main Street and visit some of the quaint village shops, and then head back to enjoy a romantic meal at one of the inn's many restaurants. 

Red Lion Inn

30 Main St, Stockbridge

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Bancroft Tower

Head up to the historic Bancroft Tower at Salisbury Park on top of Prospect Hill in Worcester with your significant other as a quick getaway in the afternoon or to top off a romantic night out. While there, check out one of the best views of the entire expanse of Worcester you will ever see. Peaceful and serene, it is the perfect opportunity for some quiet time with your loved one as you look out upon the beautiful city.

Bancroft Tower at Salisbury Park

Bancroft Tower Road, Worcester 

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Wachusett Village Inn

This truly New England style inn is located in the heart of the Wachusett region of Central Mass, right next to the ski area at Wachusett Mountain and numerous hiking trails, antique shops and the Wachusett Brewery. Call ahead to ask about the Romance Package special specifically made for couples; available as part of this package are a cottage room, massage treatments, champagne and dinner for two, and a full-American breakfast. When the weather gets right, and that should be soon, check out the Ski Lover's Package which includes all the above plus lift tickets to the ski area. Also, check out the Black Diamond II Restaurant.

Wachusett Village Inn

9 Village Inn Road, Westminster 

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1761 Old Mill Restaurant

Take in the terrifically charming rustic setting at this delicious restaurant recreated from an 18th century mill. Experience the smooth ambience and easy atmosphere produced by the sound of the water flowing through the mill and the serene view of the mill pond. A wide variety of entrees are offered for lunch and dinner, and a brunch buffet is offered for breakfast. Also visit the country store on the premises for some fun gifts like candies and stuffed animals with other items tailored for the holidays. Also look out for "Dinner & Show" combos coming up soon.

The 1761 Old Mill Restaurant

69 State Road East, Westminster 

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Nashoba Valley Winery

The sweet and elegant Nashoba Valley Winery exists in a beautiful setting overlooking the quaint little town of Bolton. Have some tasty eats at J's Restaurant and check out the broad selection of wines, beer and spirits brewed and created to perfection right on site. Take a tour through the winery and taste one of the many terrific flavors of the beverage offered for sale. When the season is right, check out the peach and apple orchards. Receive a 10% discount on the wine of the month; for November, the choice wine is plum, and December will be Blueberry Merlot.

Nashoba Valley Winery

100 Wattaquadock Hill Road, Bolton 

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Charlotte's House B & B

This small, cozy and quiet bed and breakfast is located in the heart of apple country in Bolton. Each bedroom has a working fireplace, especially ideal for those romantic evenings, with queen-sized beds with hand-crafted quilts and a private bathroom. Decorative paintings align the wall of each room. Innkeeper Lyn Slade is an experienced chef and all breakfast is homemade and delicious. Guests are treated with a plate of complimentary homemade cookies as soon as they arrive.

Charlotte's House Bed & Breakfast

96 South Bolton Road, Bolton 

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The Maguire House B & B

The award-winning Maguire House is tailor-made for romantic evenings. It is positioned in an ideal location on 44 acres overlooking Mt. Monadnock, Mt. Watatic and upper Naukeag Lake. All rooms contain queen-sized beds with private baths. A full New-England breakfast is made to order. In-room amenities include fresh flowers and gourmet chocolates. Complimentary refreshments such as wine and cheese are available anytime. Two sitting rooms for guests, one with a working fireplace, are available for quests. In addition, rowboat, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing are available from the property.

The Maguire House Bed & Breakfast

30 Cobb Road, Ashburnham

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Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Take a peaceful, quiet walk through the beautiful and immaculately kept gardens at Tower Hill. Specifically, during winter months, check out the Winter Garden showcasing plants that grow best during winter months. Check out the intricate feature known as "Domitian's Pool" in the center of the Winter Garden with its twin, spouting, bronze turtle fountains. Also come to be a part of the Holly Days festivities lasting until December 30th; see ornaments crafted from garden materials, taste great food, and experience the brilliant lighting and holiday decorations.

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

11 French Drive, Boylston 

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Via Italian Table

There are few places better for a romantic evening out than authentic Italian restaurants. The atmosphere, the ambiance, and the food and drink selection all combine to provide the perfect environment for love. Check out the extensive menu of Italian dishes including pastas, steaks, seafood, and pork. But at Via's, as with all fine Italian restaurants, the food is only the beginning. Take a peek at the impressively long list of wines and other alcoholic beverages. If you're not too full, dig into some scrumptious Italian desserts as well. Be sure to check out Worcester's many other great Italian Restaurants as well.

Via Italian Table

89 Shrewsbury Street, Worcester 

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The red Inn

It may be Cape Cod's offseason, but Provincetown is always a great spot for a romantic getaway.  The red Inn, with its stunning ocean views and central location, has been welcoming guests for nearly 100 years.  The inn offers  features three beautifully appointed guest rooms, three spacious suites and two luxury residences, all with breathtaking waterfront decks and views of Provincetown Harbor and Cape Cod Bay. Great dining options are only a short walk away, or you can stay in-house, and enjoy some fresh seafood at the inn's restaurant, operated by executive chef, Philip Mossy.

The red Inn

30 Commercial St., Provincetown

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Top of the Hub

You don't have to just enjoy Boston's iconic skyline, you can become part of it at Top of the Hub atop the Prudential Center.  At 52 stories above Back Bay, this fine dining restaurant offers a great meal with even better views.  From Fenway Park to Boston Harbor, you can see the entire city while enjoying some of the Hub's finest cuisine. 

Top of the Hub

800 Boylston St.

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The Porches Inn

What was once a series of dilapidated Victorian-era rowhouses, is now one of the most innovative and romantic hotels in the Berkshires. As part of the Massachusetts Museum of Modern Art (MassMoCA), The Porches Inn features unique designs and bold colors, while still paying homage to the generations of mill workers' families who once lived there.  Beyond the hotel, you can explore some of the areas great art.  The aforementioned MassMoCA offers interesting conceptual art, and a short drive to nearby Williamstown will bring you to Williams College Museum of Art and the Clark Art Institute

The Porches Inn

231 River St., North Adams

 
 

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