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Paper Plate Education
"Serving the Universe on a Paper Plate"

Activity: Comet Ikeya Zhang

Dynamic_comit.jpg (24175 bytes) Comet__tails_pix.jpg (20894 bytes)
Plate on right is courtesy of April Whitt.

Comet Ikeya Zhang is briefly visible to the naked eye in April 2002.  Here are two paper plate activities to accompany this celestial event.

  • You can track the comet during this limited viewing window on a modified version of the Platisphere.  First, make a Platisphere star chart for your latitude.  On the completed starfield plate mark the changing position of Comet Ikeya Zhang near Cassiopeia as shown on the star chart from Sky & Telescope magazine.  The comet will be visible in the evening sky for first few days of April and in the morning sky thereafter, until it fades from view.

  • In the Dynamic Solar System activity, you can model the movement of a comet as it rounds the sun before heading back into the dark recesses of the solar system.  Two samples of comets are shown above--a simple version ("comit") and an advanced version, which shows both a yellow dust tail and a blue ion tail.

To make a comet in the classroom, connect to this excellent comet recipe by Dennis Schatz.


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Copyright 2012 Chuck Bueter.  All rights reserved.