Observing report for 7 April 1997

Location/Conditions

Gear

Objects

Comet Hale-Bopp

Report

What a difference a day makes! Last night at this time all major roads in and out of town were closed with the police department recommending no unnecessary travel in town, all due to a major winter storm. I wasn't expecting to be able to observe tonight, but during the day today (Sunday), the skies were mostly sunny, and by nightfall skies were almost completely clear. With daylight savings time now in effect, I had plenty of time to get ready after working the 6-8pm physics help session.

I arrived at my usual site west of Laramie just before 3:00UT (9pm MDT). There were a few small clouds with 10-20 mph winds and a temperature of about 22F (a lot better than 13F with 30-45 mph winds last night). I started taking photos (on Kodak PJM) at about 3:15UT, and ended up with about 8 hopefully decent shots.

To the naked-eye, the overall appearence is the same as it has been for the last three weeks. However, for the first time, I noted a longer dust tail than plasma tail. I gauged the plasma tail at only about 13 degrees (with interference from the Milky Way), but the dust tail was about 16 degrees long, to just below the Double Cluster. There was a possible extention beyond this, but the Milky Way is there too. In 7x50s, the plasma tail showed beautiful detail. There were three obvious streamers, two of which extended quite some distance up the tail. Oh, I guess I should mention that the naked-eye limiting magnitude was about +6.7, so it wasn't quite as transparent as it can be.


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