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NEAR Spacecraft Observations of Comet Hyakutake


NEAR Spacecraft Observations of C/1996 B2

On March 24 at approximately 15:00 UT, the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft will take a small set of images of comet Hyakutake from its position 15 million km from the Earth and 16.7 million km from the comet. At this time, the comet will be most visible to observers in Hawaii, Alaska, Japan, China, and Eastern Russia.

Simultaneous observations of the comet from NEAR and groundbased observers offers a potentially unique opportunity for expanded phase angle coverage that could be used to further constrain the composition and physical properties of the cometary materials (the phase angle of the comet from NEAR will be ~85 deg, while at the same time the comet's phase angle from Earth will be ~50 deg). In addition, quantitatively calibrated groundbased data (flux calibration relative to standard stars) could provide assistance with the calibration of the NEAR multispectral camera.

If it is possible for you to observe the comet at or near March 24 at 15:00 UT, we ask for your participation in this effort.

NEAR is a NASA Discovery-class spacecraft which was just launched on February 17 and is currently on a trajectory for an encouter and orbital rendezvous with the asteroid Eros in early 1999.

I would be glad to provide more details on NEAR or the planned cometary observations if you are interested.


Jim Bell
NEAR Science Team member

Cornell University
Department of Astronomy
Center for Radiophysics and Space Research
424 Space Sciences Building
Ithaca, NY 14853-6801
phone: 607-255-5911
fax: 607-255-9002

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