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.

2022 April 8
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Hale-Bopp: The Great Comet of 1997
Image Credit & Copyright: Stefan Seip (TWAN)

Explanation: Only twenty-five years ago, Comet Hale-Bopp rounded the Sun and offered a dazzling spectacle in planet Earth's night skies. Digitized from the original astrophoto on 35mm color slide film, this classic image of the Great Comet of 1997 was recorded a few days after its perihelion passage on April 1, 1997. Made with a camera and telephoto lens piggy-backed on a small telescope, the 10 minute long, hand-guided exposure features the memorable tails of Hale-Bopp, a whitish dust tail and blue ion tail. Here, the ion tail extends well over ten degrees across the northern sky. In all, Hale-Bopp was reported as visible to the naked eye from late May 1996 through September 1997. Also known as C/1995 O1, Hale-Bopp is recognized as one of the most compositionally pristine comets to pass through the inner Solar System. A visitor from the distant Oort cloud, the comet's next perihelion passage should be around the year 4380 AD. Do you remember Hale-Bopp?

Tomorrow's picture: light-weekend

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