On November 28, we’ll have a very special visitor. The Comet ISON will be visible from the UAE and is set to be the brightest celestial event of the past 100 years. You’ll be able to see the comet at sunrise and sunset, as its journey takes it close to earth, before orbiting out of our solar system. We spoke to an expert, space man Andy Palado, founder of Abu Dhabi Astronomy, about how you can go star-spotting…

When is the best time to see the comet? Comet ISON will come within 800,000 miles (1.2 million kilometres) of the sun’s surface on November 28. The visibility takes place early in the morning and if it doesn’t break down it will continue to be visible until daylight.

Where’s a good spot to see it? Any place where light is minimal or totally empty. I’ve been to a place called Qasr Al Sarab or Arab Night Village in the middle of the desert. Those places are superb for stargazing.

What kind of telescope should we use? No need for a high-end or big telescopes to see the comet ISON. It’s very visible to the naked eye, or you could use binoculars.

What is so special about this comet? Since its discovery, ISON has been racing through our solar system. Comet ISON will pass come within 1.2 million km of the sun’s surface on November 28, which is over 100 times closer to the sun than Earth. If it doesn’t break down, it will be the brightest comet, and will even appear brighter than the moon. That’s pretty special. It’s thought it will be even brighter than both Comet Hale-Bopp (1997) and Comet McNaught (2007).

Are there a lot of astronomy lovers in Abu Dhabi? We have almost 100 members in Abu Dhabi Astronomy, and I believe there are many more out there. They just need a group like ours to re-introduce the subject.

How did you get interested in astronomy? When I was a child, I used to look up at the sky at night and my curiosity grew. I took a programme about astronomy in high school where I learned about objects we could see.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen? I once saw a line of red light spread like a curtain then a few seconds later, it seemed to fold and disappear. It was strange. I wasn’t the only witness. My friend was with me and we had no idea what that was. There was another time we saw some weird round lights in the sky. I’m not saying it’s aliens, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a plane.

What’s next to look out for? On December 13 there’ll be a meteor shower called Gemonids. Go to a dark spot and enjoy the show.


Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, Liwa, Abu Dhabi. Tel: (02) 8862088. Taxi: Qasr Al Sarab, Liwa. qasralsarab.anantara.com
Desert Islands Resort & Spa, Sir Bani Yas, Abu Dhabi. Tel: (02) 8015400. desertislands.anantara.com
Bab Al Shams, Dubailand, Dubai. Tel: (04) 8096100. Taxi: Bab Al Shams, next to Endurance Village. meydanhotels.com/babalshams