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Kitt Peak National Observatory Image of Comet Hale-Bopp

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Observer(s): Anthony Ferro, Susan Wyckoff, Rodney Heyd, Peter Wehinger
Location: Kitt Peak National Observatory, Arizona
Date: September 17, 1996

This image shows Comet C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp) observed from the Kitt Peak National Observatory 0.9-m (36-inch) telescope on 17 September 1996 using a Harris-I band filter. The image shows the comet with several different dust jets clearly visible. The sunward direction is roughly toward the top of the image. At the time this 600s image was taken, the comet was just over 3 AU from the Sun and 2.9 AU from the Earth.

The brightness of this comet, while still far away from the Sun, is an indication that this comet is large compared to most comets. The activity seen in the large number of jets, which are composed of ice, dust and gas being thrown off of the nucleus of the comet, may indicate that this comet has not been through the inner solar system very often. If this is a "fresh" comet, observations of its composition should yield important clues to the early evolution of the solar system.

The broad band images of the comet, in association with narrow band images also taken, will help determine the morphology of the comet. As part of this morphology, the astronomers will attempt to isolate any ion tail from the general dust tail seen above. The parallel spectral observations, using the KPNO 2.1-m telescope, will help to associate morphological features with spectroscopic features. This will include trying to identify ion distribution with tail features.

This image and caption were provided courtesy of Anthony Ferro, Susan Wyckoff, Rodney Heyd, and Peter Wehinger.


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