Halley's comet is once again visible each evening from now until Jan. 18. Since it can best be seen away from city lights, one of the next three weekends is a good time to head for the desert or mountains and catch a view. Make the outing into a party by inviting friends or neighbors to go along, and take a winter picnic to enjoy before and after the 6:30 to 7 p.m. sighting.
The comet has been causing quite a stir, arriving as predicted 75 years after the last sighting in 1910. It is named for the English astronomer Edmund Halley who first recognized that a comet he saw in 1682 followed the same orbit as ones seen in 1456, 1531 and 1607. He predicted it would return in 1758.
When it did, 16 years after his death, astronomers named the comet in Halley's honor and memory. It has continued to return on the same schedule ever since.
In early times, people feared comets would hit the Earth. Today it is recognized that comets have orbits, just as planets. Scientists throughout the world are using the opportunity offered by Halley's return to learn more about these celestial bodies--their makeup and significance.
Farthest From Earth
This time the view is not expected to be as spectacular as in 1910. A comet is most active (brightest) when closest to the sun. Unfortunately this will occur in February, when Halley's is on the side of the sun farthest from Earth.
But don't let this deter you from what for many is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Plan to drive the necessary 30 miles away from the city and find a spot where it's legal and safe to pull off the road--a campground is a good bet. Be assured of uninterrupted darkness. It takes 15 to 30 minutes for eyes to adjust and if they contact light from even a cigarette lighter or flashlight, it's necessary to start the timing again.
Experts advise taking binoculars or a telescope. Star charts available at outdoor shops or bookstores may also be helpful for pinpointing where to look in the southeast sky just above the horizon. The celestial wanderer can be recognized because it is larger than a star and has a fuzzy, translucent look. It will appear round, or at most, have a very short tail.
It could be quite chilly outdoors, so take along plenty of warm clothing. A hot meal, either toted in insulated containers or cooked at the site, will also be welcome. Even with limited personal equipment or campground facilities, it's possible to serve many good tasting meals.
Frankfurters cooked over an open fire are no doubt the easiest and first idea to come to mind. Hamburgers and cheeseburgers, cooked on a portable or campground grill, are another obvious choice. Accompany or top both with Easy Barbecue Baked Beans, prepared and toted or cooked over the campfire.
Zesty Filling of Sausage
Campsite Submarines have a zesty filling of Italian sausage, onions, green pepper, zucchini and vegetable soup heaped onto split hard rolls. It, like the recipe for Chili Roll-Ups, is both totable or easily prepared in only one cooking pot at the site.
Those with a bit of camping experience may want to tackle All-In-One-Dish Supper, Meatballs and Biscuits or Chicken Dinner Camp Style. These are best cooked over a campfire or on a camp stove.
If there are still some holiday sweets on hand, pack them for dessert. A thermos of hot chocolate and one of coffee will round out the menu. Dinner at 5 p.m., the sighting at 6:30 followed by dessert, then pack up and head back to the city. Little ones may fall asleep on the way home, but 75 years from now they will probably be telling their grandchildren about seeing Halley's Comet in 1986.
EASY BARBECUE BAKED BEANS
4 slices bacon
1/3 cup onion rings
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 (16-ounce) can pork and beans in tomato sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
Cook bacon until crisp in medium skillet. Drain and crumble. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat. Add onion and green pepper. Saute until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add pork and beans, sugar, mustard and bacon. Cook over low heat until heated through. Makes 4 servings.
1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage
1 medium onion
1 medium green pepper
1/2 cup zucchini slices
1 (19-ounce) can chunky Mediterranean vegetable soup
6 long hard rolls
Slice sausage 1/2 inch thick. Brown in skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and green pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender.
Add zucchini and soup. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Spoon 3/4 cup mixture onto each roll. Makes 6 sandwiches.
1 (40-ounce) can chili with beans
2 ripe avocados
8 (8-inch) flour tortillas
Shredded Cheddar cheese
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
Heat chili. Peel, seed and slice avocados. Spoon chili onto flour tortillas. Top each portion with avocado, cheese and onion. Roll burrito style (roll halfway, tuck in ends and complete rolling.) Makes 8 roll-ups.
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 egg, lightly beaten