Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) is plummeting towards the Sun, and is now approaching perihelion (its closest point of approach).

The comet will slingshot around the sun at 2pm Eastern time on November 28th (which is 11am Pacific time, and since Pacific standard time is 8 hours behind Greenwich time, that means it will be 1900 Greenwich or Universal Time).

For intrepid observers who wish to try to observe the comet at or near perihelion, this helpful article from Sky & Telescope explains how to do it.  Note that you will have to block the Sun with a solid object, and use your naked eye.  Do not use a telescope or binoculars, which magnify the light and channel it right into your eyeball, and which can cause serious permanent damage.

Of course, you will have to be on a section of the globe that is facing towards the sun during the hours that Comet ISON is making its slingshot turn around the Sun -- that is to say, it will have to be daylight where you are, although if the Sun is just dropping below the horizon of the Earth's curvature, that would be a very handy "object" that you could use to block out the Sun and look for the comet.  If it is night-time where you are when the comet is reaching perihelion, you will be unable to see the comet's perihelion turn from that location using normal vision, since the entire bulk of our planet will be in your way.

That article also says that the comet will be within one "sun diameter" of our daystar during the three hour period from 1700 UT until 2000 UT (which is from 12 noon Eastern time or 9am Pacific standard until 3pm Eastern time and 12 noon Pacific).

Depending on the comet's condition after its "sungrazing" journey around the turn, it could become a spectacular object in the night sky (visible just prior to sunrise and just after sunset), and in some scenarios could become bright enough to see during full daylight.  And, as we have been told over and over, conditions could also lead to a scenario in which Comet ISON doesn't become very spectacular at all.

The video embedded above shows NASA footage of Comet ISON approaching the Sun over the  five-day period from 20 November through 25 November, composed of HD images snapped by the STEREO-A spacecraft and its Heliospheric Imager.  Here is a link to a page about the STEREO spacecraft (there are two of them, working in tandem, as you might expect) containing an outstanding graphic animation which shows where STEREO A was located when it took the sequence shown above.  The still-frame shot below shows where STEREO A was in relation to Comet ISON, the Sun, the Earth, and the planet Mercury on November 24 (near the end of the video sequence shown above).

Using the upper diagram, you can see why the Sun is located just out of the field of view to the right edge of the video above, and why Mercury is seen to the left and our planet Earth to the right.

In the video at top (not shown in the animation or the screenshot) you can also see very clearly Comet 2P/Encke, the comet with the shortest period of all known comets (only 3 years per round trip).  It is actually visible from the beginning of the video, heading "downwards" as if it wants to intersect the more "horizontal" path of Comet ISON.  Encke does not show much of a tail until towards the end of the video, so it looks in the video much the way a satellite looks moving through the night sky to a viewer on earth -- but it is a comet, not a satellite.

There are actually five comets visible in the night sky from the northern hemisphere right now for those using binoculars or small telescopes, including C/2013 R1 Lovejoy (the most easily-visible of them all right now, discussed briefly in this previous post, and currently visible to the naked eye in the pre-dawn morning sky near Bootes the Herdsman, who sits near the Big Dipper smoking a pipe which is very close to the handle of the Dipper),  Comet C/2013 V3 Nevski (just discovered this month!), Comet C/2012 X1 LINEAR, Comet 2P/Encke, and Comet ISON.  Descriptions of these comets, and directions for locating them in the sky, can be found on the Comet Chasing page from Skyhound, the makers of SkyTools 3 observing software.  The Comet Chasing page also describes a comet visible with small telescopes and binoculars to viewers in the southern hemisphere, as well as other comets visible only for those with larger telescopes.

Until the discovery of Comet Nevski, the appearance of four comets in the sky at the same time (with one of them, ISON, getting so much notoriety from various commentators) was prompting some comparisons to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (who are found in the book of the Revelation or Apocalypse -- both words literally mean "the unveiling," although the word "Revelation" is the way to say "unveiling" that is descended from the Latin, and the word "Apocalypse" is the Greek way to say it).  They are described in Revelation chapter 6.

Here is an article from Clyde Lewis of Ground Zero Media that pulls together an impressive array of connections between the comets, predictions in the Revelation, the Maya calendar cycle that was the subject of so much discussion at the end of last year, and worrisome current events (including volcanic eruptions).  The article also points out that elsewhere in the Revelation (in fact in Revelation chapter 8:10-11), a great star is described which fell from heaven, "burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters" -- the name of this star is called Wormwood.

While not mentioned in that "Four Horsemen" article, there have been several troubling articles appearing on various internet sites arguing that dangerous levels of radiation or radioactive materials from the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster are now reaching the west coast and beginning to play havoc with marine wildlife.  However, some analysts have challenged some of these sensationalist claims, such as this article from deep-sea biologist Andrew David Thaler published on the Southern Fried Science blog.  Personally, I do not buy all of Andrew Thaler's arguments in this article, and believe some of those arguments are not well supported (at one point, he engages in a blatant ad hominem attack with no other evidence cited besides the ad hominem attack itself).

This controversy highlights the importance of doing some of your own "due diligence" when it comes to investigating matters that might be of great importance to your future.  When it comes to questions about the status of the fallout from the Fukushima disaster or questions about whether the current array of comets (and Comet ISON in particular) have anything to do with ancient apocalyptic prophetic literature, it is probably advisable to avoid being swept up by those who want to stir up fear (for whatever reason).  At the same time, while being wary of "fear mongering," it is equally important to avoid making the opposite error of complacency, or of too-rapidly dismissing possible dangers that might really be associated with these events.  For instance, just because some articles about the impact of the Fukushima radiation might be deliberately misleading and designed to create the maximum amount of fear and uncertainty among the widest possible number of people, it does not mean that we can dismiss the dangers of Fukushima altogether, or brand everyone who sounds an alarm bell on the subject as a "fearmonger."

For the record, none of the above statements should be interpreted as an accusation that Clyde Lewis's "Four Horsemen" article is being deliberately misleading or engaging in speculative fearmongering.  His article draws a number of interesting connections to a variety of ancient and modern subjects, and he tells his readers several times during the article that it is not meant to be read as a declaration that the apocalyptic doom some were trumpeting at the end of 2012 was "off by a year" and due at the end of 2013, but that on the other hand he thinks all these matters are worth being aware of.  That seems to be a responsible enough way to approach the subject.

However, I personally believe that the Maya calendar event of December 2012 referred to an astronomical event caused by the phenomenon of precession, and that "end of the world" prophecies  in sacred traditions around the world and across millennia generally refer to the end of a precessional age, not to physical or geological catastrophes that take place on the planet (they are referring to events in the sky).  Previous posts explaining the concept of precession include this one (which contains a video) and this one (which should make the impact of precession on the position of the stars completely clear).  For discussions of the Maya Long Count and 2012, and the connection to precession, see "The Maya Long Count and Galactic Alignment: the work of John Major Jenkins," and "The Staggering Implications of the Maya Long Count," among other posts from last year.

Similarly, I believe that most if not all of the events described in the book of the Revelation (or the Apocalypse) also refer to celestial phenomena.  For some discussion of this subject, see "The Scorpion and the Smoky Abyss."  That article discusses some verses in Revelation which some have taken to be referring to literal events on earth (for example, identifying the "locusts" of Revelation chapter 9 as helicopters in some horrific modern war that was being described by a vision given in ancient times), but which probably refer to constellations (the locusts of chapter 9 probably refer to the zodiac constellation of Sagittarius).  As Clyde Lewis states in the article linked above, the Four Horsemen have very clear astronomical connections as well.

However, just because those ancient sacred texts may not have been written to be understood in a strictly literal manner does not mean that certain people might not be using them as a script to try to follow: after all, the fact that millions of people believe that those ancient texts refer to literal events could give a huge boost in potential "fearmongering impact" to anyone who wanted to manipulate current events in conjunction with widely-known ancient verses.

Here is a link to a recent interview on Red Ice Radio with Richard C. Hoagland, who states during the second half of the interview that he believes Comet ISON might actually have been manipulated by humans who have access to extremely advanced forms of space travel (the so-called "secret space program") in order to arrive on specially-selected dates at a location and elevation which would produce significant numbers when measured from the site of major ritualistic events in early 2014 (such as the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics).

Whether or not you agree with this theory (I personally have not seen enough evidence to make a dogmatic assertion either way on that one, although it is certainly worth investigating), all of the above discussion seems to argue the importance of understanding the principles of the mechanics of the celestial objects whirling through our solar system, as well as the connections to the ancient sacred traditions of mankind, all of which reveal an extremely sophisticated scientific understanding of celestial phenomena, as well as a level of interest in these phenomena which implies their belief that these events are of more than just "academic interest" to men and women living on this planet.

When it comes to issues of major potential impact on our lives, we owe it to ourselves to do some analysis of our own and reach our own conclusions, and to avoid letting others tell us how to think, or manipulate us through fear.