Astronomy Picture of the Day
APOD: 1995 August 20 - Announcing Comet Hale-Bopp
Explanation: The pictured fuzzy patch may become one of the most spectacular comets this century. Although it is very hard to predict how bright a comet will become, Comet Hale-Bopp, named for its discoverers, was spotted further from the Sun than any previous comet - a good sign that it could become very bright, easily visible to the naked eye. This picture was taken on July 25th 1995, only two days after its discovery. A comet bright enough to see without a telescope occurs only about once a decade. The large coma and long tail of bright comets are so unusual and impressive that they have been considered omens of change by many cultures. A comet does not streak by in few seconds - but it may change its position and structure noticeably from night to night.
APOD: 1998 June 28 - Comet Hale-Bopp Over Val Parola Pass
Explanation: In 1997, Comet Hale-Bopp became much brighter than any surrounding stars. It could be seen even over bright city lights. Out away from city lights, however, it put on quite a spectacular show. Here Comet Hale-Bopp was photographed last March above Val Parola Pass in the Dolomite mountains surrounding Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy. Comet Hale-Bopp's blue ion tail was created when fast moving particles from the solar wind strike ions expelled from the comet's nucleus. The white dust tail was composed of larger particles of dust and ice expelled by the nucleus that orbit behind the comet. Observations have shown that Comet Hale-Bopp's nucleus spins about once every 12 hours. Comet Hale-Bopp is still visible to those in the right place with a good telescope.
APOD: 1997 October 9 - Hale-Bopp and the North American Nebula
Explanation: Comet Hale-Bopp's recent encounter with the inner Solar System allowed many breath-taking pictures. Above, Comet Hale-Bopp was photographed on March 8th in the constellation of Cygnus. Visible on the right in red is the North American Nebula, a bright emission nebula observable from a dark location with binoculars. The North American Nebula is about 1500 light years away, much further than the comet, which was about 8 light minutes away. Several bright blue stars from the open cluster M39 are visible just above the comet's blue ion tail.
Authors & editors:
& Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.