Comet ISON and My Recent Travels

People are increasingly asking about Comet ISON. You may already know that Comet ISON was discovered a little more than a year ago. It’s a sun-grazer, meaning that it will pass very close to the sun. Sun-grazer comets can be spectacular—or not. They can also fall completely apart as a result of passing so close to the sun. Post-discovery extrapolation of its likely maximum brightness—when it will be nearest the sun during late autumn this year—was very encouraging. However, recent observations of the comet have been discouraging. The comet spent a few months hidden behind the sun as seen from earth. As Comet ISON re-emerged from behind the sun this summer, it was far fainter than predicted, and it continues to underperform. It requires a good-sized amateur telescope to see it now, but it will greatly brighten as it nears the sun and finally passes closest to the sun on November 28 (Thanksgiving Day in the USA). Some predictions now suggest that Comet ISON may never reach naked-eye visibility, though it could be visible before sunrise in early December. As it climbs higher in the sky each successive morning, it should be easier to see. Unfortunately, it will fade noticeably each day as well. By Christmas any show likely will be over. Still, comets—especially sun-grazers—are difficult to predict, so stay tuned. The best-case scenario is that the comet will disrupt as it passes the sun—but not before!

British Columbia

I recently spent ten days traveling and speaking in British Columbia. I spoke 15 times. While many of my presentations were in the Vancouver area, I spoke twice on Vancouver Island, twice in Powell River, and once each in Salmon Arm and Prince George. I mostly spoke in churches, but I also spoke on the campus of the University of Northern British Columbia and to most of the students at Powell River Christian School.

Church meeting

Students in classroom

I renewed old friendships, such as George and Christine Pierce, David Lashley, and David Buckna. I also met many new friends who graciously hosted me in their homes. This included the Gregory family, the van Arkels, the Stoneys, as well as the pastors and brothers, Don and Paul Johnson. The Stoneys even let me join their string quartet (making it a quintet) while we jammed playing a few hymns. To do this, I forced one of the girls to surrender her viola and play a violin. For most people, that would be a promotion. I’m really not very good, but I enjoy playing with a small string group.

String quintet

The weather could have been better—it rained much of the time. But we had a half day on the island that was sunny, and my final day in the Vancouver area was gorgeous—sunny and warm. I got a great view of Mt. Baker, the impressive volcano visible from Vancouver on a clear day:

Mt. Baker

In the Okanagan there must be a suitcase field that repels my checked bags, because this was the second time that I flew there but my bag didn’t. Next trip, I think I’ll drive.