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Comet Comments - February 7, 1996



Don Machholz
Feb 7, 1996

Three new comets have been discovered in the past month, one of them is expected to become a naked eye object in March and April. Meanwhile, Comet Hale-Bopp has now reappeared in our morning sky, it's a little brighter than expected. We now have the lu xury of having four comets visible in binoculars. All four comets have been discovered in the past eight months by American and Japanese amateur astronomers.

C/1996 A1 (Jedicke): Robert and Victoria Jedicke discovered this comet using the 36" Spacewatch (with a CCD) from Kitt Peak on Jan. 14. The comet was at magnitude 17 in Hydra. We now know that it is over 5 Astronomical Units (AU) away from the sun and o ver a year away from perihelion. When it reaches perihelion in April 1997 at 2.5 AU it will attain eleventh magnitude.

C/1996 B1 (Szcezepanski): Edward Szczepanski was photographing M 101 on the evening of Jan. 27 from the Houston Astronomical Society in southern Texas. It was his last exposure of the night. After a couple of hours of sleep, he awoke and developed his f ilm. Upon close examination he noticed a fuzzy patch near M 101. Confirming that it wasn't on an earlier film, and learning that it wasn't a known comet, he called the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. On the following night confirmation came from several quarters. The magnitude was about 8.6.

Comet Szczepanski was closest to the sun on Feb. 7 at 1.45 AU. Over the next few weeks it will be heading south through Leo, passing near Regulus in mid-March. It is closest to us in early March at 0.54 AU.

C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake: Yuji Hyakutake discovered his second comet in five weeks on the morning of Jan. 30. He was using the same 25x150 binoculars and this comet was found about three degrees away from the discovery location of his other find.

An early orbit suggest that the comet is approaching the earth and will pass 10 million miles from us in late March. This passage will take place outside and above our orbit, so the comet will be seen against the dark background of the northern polar re gion. Its magnitude will be about 1, and it should appear at least a half-degree in size. Through April it should dim slightly as it moves away from us and continues toward the sun. It slips into our evening sky and heads southward brightening through the last half of April. By April 27 it will be low in our WNW sky after sunset and magnitude 1.5. The tail, and it will probably have one at that distance from the sun, ought to be rather interesting.

You or your astronomy club may consider a public star party to show your neighbors this comet. Astronomy Day is April 20, the moon will be three days past New and Comet Hyakutake should be about second magnitude near RA 2h 50m, +34 degrees. Your neighbors may ask: "Is this that Comet Hale-Bopp that I have been hearing about?". And you can say, "No, that will be by next year at this time...same part of the sky, and even brighter than this comet." After late April we will lose Comet Hyakutake as it mov es south of the sun and is seen much better from the Southern Hemisphere.

C/1995 Y1 (Hyakutake)			C/1996 B1 (Szczepanski)
DATE(00UT) R.A. (2000) DEC El. Sky Mag	DATE(00UT) R.A. (2000) DEC El. Sky Mag
02-12	17h56.6m -02o20'  56o	M  8.3	02-12	12h58.6m +49o05' 126o	M  8.1
02-17	18h22.2m +01o32'  56o	M  8.2	02-17	12h28.3m +45o54' 134o	M  8.0
02-22	18h47.5m +05o23'  55o	M  8.2	02-22	11h56.5m +41o31' 142o	M  7.9
02-27	19h12.4m +09o05'  54o	M  8.3	02-27	11h25.2m +35o51' 151o	M  7.8
03-03	19h36.5m +12o33'  53o	M  8.3	03-03	10h56.7m +29o11' 158o	M  7.9
03-08	19h59.8m +15o44'  53o	M  8.5	03-08	10h32.0m +22o04' 160o	M  8.0
03-13	20h22.0m +18o35'  52o	M  8.6	03-13	10h11.8m +15o08' 157o	E  8.1
03-18	20h43.1m +21o07'  51o	M  8.8	03-18	09h55.8m +08o51' 150o	E  8.4
03-23	21h03.1m +23o20'  50o	M  9.0	03-23	09h43.6m +03o24' 143o	E  8.6
03-28	21h21.9m +25o17'  51o	M  9.2	03-28	09h34.5m -01o10' 137o	E  8.9
04-02	21h39.5m +26o58'  50o	M  9.4	04-02	09h28.1m -04o58' 131o	E  9.2
04-07	21h55.9m +28o27'  49o	M  9.6	04-07	09h23.9m -08o07	 125o	E  9.5
04-12	22h11.3m +29o44'  49o	M  9.9	04-12	09h21.5m -10o45' 121o	E  9.8

C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp)			C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake)
DATE(00UT) R.A. (2000) DEC  El.	Sky Mag	DATE(00UT) R.A. (2000) DEC El. Sky Mag
02-12	19h20.3m -22o50'  34o	M  9.2	02-12	14h40.6m -24o48'  97o	M  8.9
02-17	19h23.2m -22o32'  39o	M  9.1	02-17	14h44.1m -24o32' 101o	M  8.4
02-22	19h26.1m -22o14	  43o	M  9.0	02-22	14h47.3m -24o06' 106o	M  7.9
02-27	19h28.8m -21o55	  47o	M  9.0	02-27	14h50.1m -23o22' 111o	M  7.3
03-03	19h31.4m -21o36'  52o	M  8.9	03-03	14h52.5m -22o11' 115o	M  6.6
03-08	19h33.9m -21o16'  56o	M  8.8	03-08	14h54.3m -20o10' 121o	M  5.8
03-13	19h36.1m -20o56'  60o	M  8.7	03-13	14h55.3m -16o25' 127o	M  4.8
03-18	19h38.2m -20o36'  65o	M  8.6	03-18	14h54.5m -07o54' 134o	M  3.4
03-23	19h40.0m -20o15'  69o	M  8.5	03-23	14h47.8m +21o10' 136o	M  1.5
03-28	19h41.6m -19o54'  74o	M  8.4	03-28	04h21.9m +80o21'  90o	E  1.1
04-02	19h42.9m -19o33'  78o	M  8.3	04-02	03h12.5m +52o31'  56o	E  2.1
04-07	19h44.0m -19o11'  83o	M  8.2	04-07	03h05.9m +43o44'  45o	E  2.5
04-12	19h44.7m -18o48'  88o	M  8.1	04-12	03h01.2m +39o14'  38o	E  2.5

Object		Hyakutake(95Y1)	Szczenpanski	Haykutake(96B2)	Hale-Bopp 
Peri. Date     1996 02 24.2909	1996 02 07.129741996 05 01.552951997 0401.09192 
Peri. Dist (AU)	1.05456 AU	1.4507841 AU	0.2294915 AU	0.913959 AU
Arg/Peri (2000):046.353 deg.	151.44985 deg.	130.29556 deg.	130.59470 deg.
Asc. Node(2000):195.7592 deg.	345.41073 deg.	188.15597 deg.	282.47161 deg.
Incl (2000)	054.4667 deg.	052.07280 deg.	124.65024 deg.	089.42447 deg.
Eccen:		1.0		1.0		1.0		0.9950751
Orbital Period:	Long Period	Long Period	Long Period	Long Period
Ref:		MPC 26543	MPEC1996-C02	MPEC 1996-C03	MPC 26374

Don Machholz
(916) 346-8963

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