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In praise of - comet Ison.

IT'S coming in 2013!

You shout back: "What? What? What's coming?" Comet ISON, that's what.

Do not be afraid. Though a few theological loonies are pinning religious boots and cans to the comet's rear-bumper — end of the Earth, return of that Jesus, yada-yada — the point is this could be right spectacular.

ISON stands for International Scientific Optical Network, the type of telescope used in Russia to discover the comet. The comet originates in the Oort Cloud, which sounds like something from Douglas Adams, but is actually a gang of comets thought to hang out in a circle one light year from the Sun.

So ISON isn't just any old rubbish. It's a kosher comet that could outshine the Moon. Before you go rushing into your back garden with sandwiches and binoculars, it isn't due to stravaig across the northern hemisphere until next November and December. But it'll be well worth the wait, and is expected to draw millions of Earthlings into the darkness to gawp upwards in awe.

Astronomer Dr David Whitehouse says: "Its tail could stretch like a searchlight into the sky above the horizon."

At the time of going to press, ISON is faffing about near Jupiter, prior to blitzing past Earth on a trajectory that could see it plunge head-first into the Sun. This is the most comet-style excitement we've had since Hale-Bopp in 1997. Anything that gets us to look up into the night sky and feel right wee is good in my book.

There's nothing like an astronomical phenomenon to lift us from our slough of mortgages and conflict, restoring to us a proper sense of wonder at the big black hoose, or "universe" as scientists call it. Hail ISON! Shine upon our spinning blue abode and give us food for thought (preferably non-apocalyptic).

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