This week, ISON resides among the background of Virgo the Maiden. Your best guide is that constellation’s brightest star, 1st-magnitude Spica. On the 15th, the comet hangs 8° west-northwest of Spica (above it in the predawn sky). The gap closes to 5° the next day and to just 2° the day after that. If ISON’s tail glows brightly, it could look like the Sword of Damocles poised above the star. By November 18, the comet’s head appears just below Spica and the tail lies in front of it.
If you’re looking for a great photo opportunity, any of these mornings should work. You can get superb results with a digital single-lens reflex camera, a standard lens, and a sturdy tripod. Using manual (“M”) mode, set the lens aperture as wide as possible (the lowest f/ratio) and the ISO to 400. If you keep your exposures to 15 seconds or less, you’ll keep stars from trailing across your image. Experiment with different settings to see what works best under the conditions. Also try to find intriguing foreground scenes to add interest to your photos. Finally, don’t be afraid to shoot in twilight — the colors add a lot of visual appeal.
The comet should continue to brighten as the week progresses. Predictions show it shining at 4th magnitude November 21, when it rises just before twilight begins for observers at 35° north latitude. ISON should appear striking in the eastern sky an hour before sunrise. In just a week, the comet will make its closest approach to the Sun and should shine brightest.