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Sky & Telescope News Bulletin - April 26, 1996

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GOOD-BYE, HYAKUTAKE

Comet Hyakutake passes through perihelion on May 1st nearly behind the Sun as seen from Earth, then races south. By mid-May it should be emerging very low in the Southern Hemisphere dawn. The comet should fade steadily during this time, and comet expert Charles Morris believes the post- perihelion prospects are rather bleak. He does not expect Comet Hyakutake to brighten past 1st magnitude as it rounds then Sun, and it may be magnitude 2.5 or fainter by the time it moves back into a dark sky. Then it's good-bye for a long while. According to Brian Marsden (Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams), the comet won't be back for about 14,000 years, and much of that will be near its aphelion about 1,100 astronomical units from the Sun. Marsden calculates that Hyakutake last came through the inner solar system about 8,000 years ago; the change in its orbit is due to slight perturbations by the planets.

APRIL 28 -- SUNDAY

Take one last try at Comet Hyakutake this evening before saying goodbye to it forever. Look west in late twilight for bright Venus. Holding your fist at arm's length, look 3 1/2 fist-widths to Venus's lower right, very near the horizon. Mercury is one fist-width to the comet's upper left. Use binoculars!

 
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