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TODAY   |  November 28, 2013

‘Thanksgiving comet’ set to fly by Earth

The comet, known as ISON, is set to light up the sky on Thanksgiving night in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

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>> sit down for your holiday feast you may want to turn your attention to the sky. the so-called comet of the century is set for a close encount we're the sun and it could be a spectacular show. nbc is in cairo this morning. tell us about this comet .

>> good morning, willie. you know, astronomers from around the world have been coming to observatories like this one in cairo for centuries gazing at the stars above hoping to get some answers into our complex solar system . today perhaps they're about to get one of the biggest clues into the origins of our planet. it's the must see event of the universe. around the planet, viewers are setting their sights high in the sky, all to catch a glimpse of comet ison, or what some are calling the thanksgiving comet .

>> it's once in a lifetime opportunity for the average person.

>> reporter: the ison comet is as old as earth itself, more than 4 1/2 billion years old. and that's why it's so important.

>> comets are always great. they are natural laps to tell us about the origin of the solar system .

>> reporter: ison is one of a rare breed. it has circled the sun making it a sun glazer comet . a journey that may end with its disintegration.

>> it guess very close to the sun. . the taillights up the magnetic field of the sun.

>> reporter: the ancient egyptian pharaohs used the sun to tell time.

>> what would the time be right now?

>> just at 3:30.

>> reporter: and built their pyramids to line up with the stars above. in the bible when three wise men noticed the shooting star , or a likely comet , it marked the birth of jesus christ . but comets have also fueled pair noah for centuries. some have warned itself just a matter of time before a comet like ison slams into earth.

>> it's actually not going to get anywhere near us. just enjoy it. don't worry about it. this is a true gift from the cosmos.

>> reporter: if ison survives the sun the visibility should peak in the next few weeks creating perhaps the most spectacular show on earth. guys, i can report with some confidence that none of the astronomers here in egypt we've been speaking to have seen the ison comet yet but they say don't give up hope. it could be a little late just like some of the travelers this holiday thanksgiving. guys, natalie, willie, back to you.

>> you've got a great vantage