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Why is NASA interested in Gamma ray bursts?
Regarding astrophysicists observing GRBs quickly when they happen, no doubt you are aware that they have been doing this for some time now. See, for example, the ROTSE rotse.net and BOOTES telescopes laeff.cab.inta-csic.es/BOOTES/ing/index.html which automatically slew to observe in the direction of a GRB detected by space telescopes such as NASA's SWIFT telescope: nasa.gov/topics/universe/features/star-disintegration.html
Magnitude of New Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON)
You might also be interested in work such as this one: annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev-astro-081309-130811 where the authors discuss a possible taxonomy of comets based on their birthplace. Knowing where a comet was formed gives clues on its likely composition. Empirically one might draw some connections between the composition of known comets and their magnitude. One might then attempt to predict the composition of C/2012 S1 and thence its likely magnitude. There are many uncertainties associated with this however which are likely to render such a scheme unworkable.