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.

May 16, 1996

Comet Hyakutake Passes the Sun
Credit: G. Brueckner and the LASCO Team, SOHO, ESA, NASA

Explanation: On May 1, Comet Hyakutake made its closest approach to the Sun. During this time it was not possible to view the comet with most astronomical instruments because of the brightness of the nearby Sun. But the orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft contains telescopes meant to look directly at the Sun and so were able to track the comet during this crucial time. This picture, taken May 2, shows the tails of Comet Hyakutake pointing away from the Sun, as expected. During its closest approach, Comet Hyakutake passed inside the orbit of Mercury. Comet Hyakutake will not return to the inner Solar System for another 14,000 years.

Tomorrow's picture: Comet Hyakutake and a Solar Flare

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (GMU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA).
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