What... (i.e. camp, dance class, birthday party)
        
 
Pick a NYMetroParents Region: All Regions   Manhattan    Brooklyn    Queens    Westchester    Rockland   Fairfield    Nassau    Suffolk  

Resources

   

VIEW THE 'COMET OF THE CENTURY' WITH YOUR KIDS ON THANKSGIVING

     Home  >  Articles  > NYMP News (not region specific)
by Michael E. Bakich October 18, 2013

Related: comet ison, viewing comet ison on thanksgiving, thanksgiving comet, the comet of the century, astronomy fun with kids,


This year, have some astronomy fun with your kids on Thanksgiving and view Comet ISON, the "Comet of the Century." We've got tips for viewing Comet ISON on Thanksgiving, as well as facts about comets, and ISON's path in space.

Comet ISON from the Hubble Telescope
A photograph of Comet ISON taken by the Hubble telescope in May

Americans love to celebrate Thanksgiving as a series of traditions: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, turkey at the dinner table, Grandma’s pumpkin pie, Dad’s afternoon football game. This Thanksgiving, however, families may enjoy an unusual bit of halftime or after-dinner entertainment, when Comet ISON reaches its brightest point at 1:41 p.m. EST (prediction made at press time).

For observers across the United States, that means the comet will lie dangerously close to the sun, so we’ll have to content ourselves with televised views from observatories that have the proper equipment to image it. Many websites correctly state that this confluence of circumstances make it one of the rare times we can see a comet with the naked eye even during daylight hours—but doing so can be dangerous and could result in loss of vision, so direct daylight viewing is not recommended.

Many observers are hoping Comet ISON will be the “comet of the century,” anticipating that it could grow to be several times as bright as the planet Venus. Even if predictions turn out to be overstated (some speculate the Comet will be dimmer than initial predictions), this is still an astronomical event worth sharing with your kids. Adding a bit of outer-space adventure to your holiday will make it all the more memorable.

Astronomy Lesson

Here is some background to enrich your viewing experience: Comets are small, irregularly shaped bodies made up of dust grains and frozen gases. Many travel along stretched-out orbits that occasionally bring them close to the sun and then take them deep into space. When far from the sun, the gas around a comet’s core, its nucleus, is frozen solid. Comets shine because sunlight reflects off them. The closer they get to the sun, the more ice changes to gas. The result is that the comet gets bigger, so it appears brighter. Closer yet to the sun, comets develop a tail.

Two astronomers found Comet ISON glowing dimly on Sept. 21, 2012. On Nov. 28 of this year, ISON will lie closest to the sun—a scant 680,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) from its surface. At that time, current predictions suggest, it may appear 500 billion times as bright as it glowed at discovery.

Comet ISON's path
A map of ISON’s path

Making the Most of ISON

Binoculars provide the best views for most bright comets like ISON (which entered binocular range in early October). Binoculars offer some magnification, darken the sky background a little, and have a wide field of view.

Get outside the city. From an urban setting, the comet appears faint because of light pollution. So, the darker the site, the better the comet will look (especially the tail).

Observe the comet like a scientist. Ask questions like, “How high is the comet in the sky?” “In which constellation(s) does it lie?” “Is the tail visible against the background of the Milky Way?” Note the comet’s apparent size. As it approaches the sun, a comet can develop two types of tails—dust and ion. Can you see both the yellow dust tail and the bluish ion tail?

Although ISON will approach its brightest point on Nov. 28, your family should plan to add viewing this astronomical event in the morning sky before sunrise in November and December. No matter what the age, this once-in-a-lifetime experience is coming our way soon.

Michael E. Bakich is senior editor at Astronomy magazine.

 


Get Your FREE Indoor Activity eGuide!

More NYMP News (not region specific) Articles

Meet the New, Older Dora the Explorer

Ronald McDonald House Charities® New York Tri-State Area Awards $80,000 to Five Area High School Seniors
Announcing Winners of the NYMetroParents Kids' Cover Contest
Operation Backpack Launched to Collect School Supplies for Children in Need
10 Things to Do if Your Pet is Lost

Be a good fellow parent and share this with a friend who would be interested
Email Friend

Local NYMP News (not region specific) Sponsors

Melissa Giuttari
115 E. 92nd St., Suite 1A (bet. Park & Lexington Avenues)
New York, New York
718-213-8664
...

Star Kidz-Westchester
White Plains/Mount Kisco/NYC locations
914-921-0006
Let Your Child Shine! Star Kidz is the unique s...

Pump It Up Long Island
225 Community Drive
Great Neck, NY
516-466-7867
Hosting a birthday party at Pump It Up is great fo...

Stuk On U
P.O. Box 699
Crompond, NY
877-374-2692
Need the perfect baby shower gift? How about a wel...

Sterling Hills Mine Tour & Museum
30 Plant Street
Ogdensburg, NJ
973-209-6463 MINE)
...
See Our NYMP News (not region specific) Directory

local zones

Nassau

Nassau cont.

Suffolk

Suffolk cont.

Westchester

Westchester cont.

Fairfield

Rockland

Rockland cont.

Queens

Queens cont.

Brooklyn

Brooklyn cont.

Manhattan

Copyright 2014 NY Metro Parents Magazine Site Design: THE VOICE