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How to watch the Comet ISON show

Look skyward this month—the comet of the century may be on its way.


Click image to enlarge.

We love our comets. From Hale-Bopp to Halley’s Comet, a big one seems to come by every 20 years or so and capture our imaginations.

The newest comet streaming toward our sun is no exception. On Nov. 28, Comet ISON will have reached the point on its journey closest to our sun, where it has the potential to be visible during the day and to shine brighter than a full moon.

Roy Gal, an assistant astronomer at the University of Hawaii, is planning on setting up telescopes for the public before sunrise near Waimanalo a couple of days before Thanksgiving. “The best place to see it will be somewhere on the east side of the island. If you can see the sunrise, you’ll be able to see the comet,” says Gal. Predawn will be the best time to catch a glimpse, since the comet will be travelling close to our sun.

If all goes well, the comet should stay visible throughout December, and possibly into January. While we won’t know for sure until it gets here how bright it will be, hopes are high that ISON will live up to its expectation of being what some scientists are calling the comet of the century.

Check ifa.hawaii.edu for updates, as well as facebook.com/uhifa and on Twitter, @uhifa.

Star Shows
Thanks to Hawaii’s: Dark skies

Comet ISON isn’t the only awe-inspiring display scheduled to brighten Hawaii’s night skies. Set your alarm clock: From meteor showers to planetary closeups, these are some upcoming astronomical events you won’t want to miss.

December (all month)

Venus, the “evening star,” can be seen most nights twinkling brighter than all the stars, but in December it gets especially showy and will be shining brighter than it has in the past two years.

Dec. 13

This one is a real treat—the Geminids Meteor Shower has been called the king of the meteor showers. This annual display peaks after midnight with up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour shooting through the heavens, but the best time to see it will be after 4:30 a.m., when the moon finally sets, leaving pure darkness.

Jan. 5

Earth will be passing directly between the sun and Jupiter, making it the closest to Jupiter we’ll be until 2020. Even a pair of decent binoculars might be able to help you spot one of the huge planet’s many satellites on this night.

May 24

Astronomy buffs are already anxiously awaiting the potential meteor storm that will occur when Earth rotates into the debris trail of Comet LINEAR. Conservative estimates are putting the number of meteors per hour at 100 to 400, but there is potential for that number to exceed 1,000.

Comet watching can be a gamble: The Feb. 1986 appearance of Halley’s Comet had the worst viewing conditions for the comet of the last 2,000 years..

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