Observers: David Fideler, Andy Harwood
Location: Ionia State Recreation Area, Saranac, Michigan
Date: March 7, 1997 9:30-10:30 UT
Time and date: March 7, 1997, 4:30 - 5:30 AM local time (9:30 - 10:30 UT).
Viewing location: Ionia State Recreation Area, near Saranac, Michigan, thirty miles east of Grand Rapids.
Viewing conditions: Dark skies with some thin, high altitude clouds in spots; some skyglow from the horizon in direction of comet; temperature: below freezing.
Observers: David Fideler and Andy Harwood. Photos by David Fideler.
Naked-eye magnitude of comet: One of the brightest objects in the eastern sky. Between brightness of Altair (0.77 magnitude) and Vega (0.03 magnitude).
Length of tail: Two to three degrees easily visible with naked eye. Through 7x50 binoculars, seven degrees easily visible.
Photographic details: FILM: Kodak Ektachrome P1600; CAMERA: Pentax K1000 on stationary tripod; LENS: 50mm at F/2.82; EXPOSURE: About two minutes. Photos processed for brightness and contrast in Photoshop.
To the naked eye, there was a short, bright tail reaching straight back from the coma. Through binoculars, however, two tails were clearly visible: a bright dust tail reaching straight back to the right, and a lighter, curved ion tail, arching away to the north. Both tails were very broad and fan-shaped, and both are evident in the photographs. In the photos, the blue ray on the left is the ion tail. When magnified, there was a bright, prominent jet coming out of the pseudonucleus on the south side that seemed to be pointing toward us a bit. The color of the comet was golden, with a hint of gray-bluish-green.
After an hour we experienced interference from high altitude clouds and left. But after getting home, the sky cleared again during twilight. As the sky brightened and turned ever more blue, the comet climbed higher in the heavens with its short bright tail still easily visible, flaunting the approach of day. Magnificent!
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