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University of Hawaii Image of Comet Hale-Bopp

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Observers: Henry Matthews, Matt Senay, David Jewitt
Location: University Of Hawaii
Date: March 16, 1997

MARCH 16 IMAGE OF THE HYDROGEN CYANIDE COMA

Comet Hale Bopp is now too low in the sky for easy visibility from the optical telescopes on Mauna Kea. Instead, this image was obtained at 0.87 mm wavelength using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope. It shows the distribution of Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN) gas in the inner coma of the comet. The gas streams away from the nucleus at more than 1 km/sec, filling a region more than 100,000 km across.

HCN is a "parent molecule". When bombarded by solar ultraviolet photons it breaks apart into the "daughter" species CN and H. CN has one of the brightest emission lines in the optical spectra of comets. HCN has the brightest submillimeter lines.

Henry Matthews (NRC, Canada and JAC, Hilo) Matt Senay (FCRAO) and David Jewitt (UH)

Contact: Richard J. Wainscoat (rjw@ifa.hawaii.edu)


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