Sept. 6 MTSU First Friday Star Party highlights Co...

Sept. 6 MTSU First Friday Star Party highlights Comet ISON

Comet ISON is depicted in this photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope on April 10, 2013. (Photo courtesy of NASA and the European Space Agency)

MTSU physics and astronomy associate professor Chuck Higgins will explore the November arrival of Comet ISON on Friday, Sept. 6, during the inaugural MTSU First Friday Star Party of fall 2013.

Higgins, an MTSU faculty member since 2001, will discuss the possibilities for viewing the comet at the star party, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday in Wiser-Patten Science Hall Room 102.

The public is invited to the free event that offers free parking behind Wiser-Patten. Parking information can be found here

After Higgins’ “Comet ISON: Bang or Bust?” talk and question-and-answer session, weather permitting, the free public event will be followed by a short walk to the classical observatory for a night viewing.

Higgins said comets are “fantastic visitors from the outer solar system,” sometimes seen from Earth over a few weeks as they move rapidly in their elongated orbits when they are near the sun.

“Much excitement has been made about Comet ISON, which is expected to be best visible in November,” Higgins said. “Will Comet ISON be a bang or bust?

“Some astronomers are predicting it to be extremely bright, perhaps as bright as the moon when it is near the sun in the daytime sky,” he added. “However, other scientists are wary. Comets are notoriously unpredictable in their brightness.”

Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok of Russia discovered Comet ISON Sept. 21, 2012. It is said to be 3.1 miles in diameter.

At the star party, Higgins said he will explain how people can learn more about comets and their properties and provide more details about viewing Comet ISON.

The remaining First Friday Star Parties this fall, all starting at 6:30 p.m., include:

  • Oct. 4: “Life on Exoplanets: What Might Established Religions Say?,” led by guest speaker David Weintraub of Vanderbilt University;
  • Nov. 1: “Funky Fizix in Film: Part III,” led by MTSU professor Eric Klumpe; and
  • Dec. 6: “Mysterious Gamma Ray Bursts,” led by MTSU assistant professor Irina Perevalova.

For more information about the star parties, call 615-898-2430 or visit

— Randy Weiler (

Click on the graphic above for a printable version of the fall 2013 First Friday Star Parties schedule.