Comet Hale-Bopp: July 1996 - May 1997

While Hyakutake was a wonderful comet that graced our skies for a few months, Hale-Bopp was a monster comet. I photographed it from July 1996 to May of 1997. One of the most interesting shots I got was of the comet and the globular cluster M14 on October 29, 1996. The distinct jets were already visible emanating from the coma.

My next photograph was taken on February 17, 1997. It shows the comet through a 400mm F5.6 lens. Both the dust and ion tails are visible.

On March 7, 1997 the comet rapidly brightened and displayed the classic two-tail form. The blue Ion tail is pointing directly away from the sun. The yellowish dust tail fanned away from the comet. The dust tail had several streaks visible in it if you look closely. These are due to dust fragments breaking off and producing mini-comet tails inside the main dust tail.

The comet shifted to the evening sky and was a spectacular object even to casual observers. In this 200mm F2.8 lens shot, we see the comet passing by M34. The date is April 7, 1997. Again, one can see streaks in the dust tail.

Visible in telescopes were jets and hoods being expelled by the comet. On April 20, 1997, I shot this spectacular shot of the hoods using the 26-inch F16 telescope at the University of Central Florida observatory. The jets off of the nucleus produced the hoods. As the nucleus rotated, the jet would shoot off a shell of material and then rotate away. The hood would move ahead of the nucleus and when another jet rotated into position, it would produce another shell. Clearly, Comet Hale-Bopp was a very active comet.

One of my last shots was on May 4, 1997. The shot is using a 200mm F2.8 lens. Note the odd shaped Ion tail.

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