Observing report for 1 April 1997




Comet Hale-Bopp


Bonus night! The cold front that had been rushing towards us during the day seemed to have stalled out, so I headed out to the observing site and was rewarded with over an hour of clear dark skies at the comet. There were some clouds low on the western horizon, and occasional flashes of lightning to the southwest, presumably just ahead of the front (and also presumably containing snow showers instead of rain showers).

There was a fairly strong south wind early, so I was hiding my barndoor tracker behind my car. The temperature was in the low 40s, and the sky didn't seem quite as transparent as it can be with a naked-eye limiting magnitude near Polaris of about +6.6. I shot some more photos and I now have photos for 4 straight nights, and 5 out of the last 6!

With the naked-eye, the tails didn't seem quite as long they were last night, probably due to the slightly less transparent skies. I estimated about 14 degrees for the plasma tail and about 12 degrees for the dust tail. In 7x50s, the bright streamer and dark lane in the plasma tail I had seen last night were not noticable, and in fact, there wasn't much detail visible anywhere in the plasma tail. Hopefully the photos will reveal more about how the tail structure has been changing night-to-night (and confirm the things I've been seeing!).

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