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Vanderhoff Images of Comet Hale-Bopp

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Observer: Dewey Vanderhoff
Location: Wapiti Valley, Wyoming
Date: April 15-16, 1997

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Mir rising- Stonebarn

While Hale-Bopp is still thundering thru the evening sky , occasionally something comes along to steal a little bit of that thunder. A certain 200-ton space station sneaking into view , for instance.

While photographing the hundred year old "Stonebarn" and Hale-Bopp from the badlands of Wyoming last Tuesday night April 15, the comet got upstaged. MIR appeared . It rose directly behind the barn , near the comet.

What makes this so funny is none of us were expecting it... I had not run any orbit & starfield plots for that night. But MIR found us anyway. I had two photographs of it as latent images before I even saw it at all...cruising thru Cassiopeia. We immediately trained camera on it and got a few more images of it passing under Ursa Major. Talk about pure dumb luck...or maybe we engineer our luck a little, eh? With the gods and three other photographers as my witness, we never saw it coming...but nailed it anyway.

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Mir rising - Weston Cabin

The following evening, Thursday April 16, we had plotted Mir and were ready for it. From our vantage near the historic Weston Cabin at the Breteche Creek Ranch Retreat in the volcanic highlands of the Wapiti Valley , we succeeded in capturing MIR rising alongside Hale-Bopp in the west. It came up behind the ridge and went straight up past the comet and Capella thru Auriga, and upon reaching 44 degrees elevation , it promptly passed into the earth's shadow and winked out. But Mack Frost and me got four frames of it.

It's been a real fringe benefit to be able to compute the time, location, and actual starfields that MIR will pass through from our Wyoming locations. It really enhances the comet enjoyment, and adds a whole new layer to the experience of astronomy and spaceflight. For a few minutes, they merge... a comet from the depths of time and the formative years of the solar system, and the manmade outpost that is the little frontier cabin in orbit. Soon there will be hotels and factories in space, and there will always be a comet I suppose. But for now we have the wonder and majesty of being present when Man left the cradle and took a few steps into space, and learned to see things out there. What a great time to be alive and starstruck...

Exposure data: f/ 2.8 and Be There...

Dewey Vanderhoff
deweyv@trib.com


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