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Comet ISON becomes visible to the naked eye on its first trip past Earth

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After a remarkable flare up in brightness last week, comet ISON has become visible to the naked eye as it passes Earth on its journey toward the sun, according to reports from the Comet ISON Observing Campaign. Astronomers have been looking forward to comet ISON's passing, as it's the first time that it has ever come through the inner solar system. Though the comet will become increasingly harder to see as it nears the sun over the next 10 days, for now it's reported to remain a particularly bright object that's visible to the naked eye against very dark skies in some locations, and visible through binoculars in brighter urban locations.

Observers will want to start looking soon though, as the comet's future isn't certain. Because this is only comet ISON's first appearance, astronomers aren't positive that it'll make it through its brush with the sun. NASA lists three possible options for what might happen: the comet spontaneously breaks up sometime before Thanksgiving, it's destroyed by the sun's heat sometime around Thanksgiving, or it makes it away from the sun with a large tail of lost dust behind it. Spontaneous breakups are quite rare — it reportedly happens to less than 1 percent of comets — so one of the latter two options will likely come to pass over the next several weeks. Until then, expect more incredible photos of comet ISON to start surfacing.