Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

March 31, 1996

Comet Hyakutake Finder Chart for April
Credit: HST Comet Hyakutake Observing Team and NASA
MPEG Movie of the Comet's Position in April (2.8 MB)

Explanation: During April Comet Hyakutake heads in toward the Sun after passing the Earth. At this time the comet's orbit places it north of the Earth. Remaining visible in the northern sky as it nears the Sun, it will set progressively earlier in the evening. Early in April, the Moon's glow will diminish viewing of the comet's tail - except during the lunar eclipse on April 3rd! As the comet recedes from the Earth it will appear dimmer even though it is getting intrinsically brighter as it nears the Sun. In late April the intrinsic brightening effect will "win" and the comet will again appear to brighten - possibly getting even brighter than it was last week. At this point the comet will appear near sunset low on the northwestern horizon (see above). So far Comet Hyakutake has exceeded most expectations in brightness and length of tail. If you haven't been impressed by Hyakutake, you probably haven't seen it from a dark location!

Latest Comet Hyakutake images: JPL, Fayetteville Observer-Times, NASA's Night of the Comet, ICSTARS, Crni Vrh Obs., Cent. Mich U.
Tomorrow's picture: Hyakutake, Big Dipper, and Observatory Dome

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