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We took this photo on the morning of 2/16/97, using our 8 inch F/1.5 Schmidt Camera. It covers at least 4 by 6 Degrees, or about the size of your hand held at arm's length.
Note the differing colors in the tail!! The blue color is glowing gas, while the yellow is sunlight reflected from dust. The blue gas glows because UV light from the sun makes it radiate its own light.
Why the two tails?? The sun warms the comet, a 20 mile ball of ices, rocks, and dust, forcing the material to spew off like steam from a volcano. Some of it forms the coma around the comet. High energy particles streaming from the sun push the gas straight away. However, the dust and dirt particles are left behind along the comet's orbit, someday perhaps to become meteors in our sky.
The central coma is over-exposed in this photo. We have gotten more detail in close-up photos thru our large telescopes, and we have placed these photos on the web site also. You can observe details of Comet Hale-Bopp yourself thru any pair of binoculars.
Click here to get our photo of the comet made on March 9th, 1997
Click here to get our photo of the comet made on April 4th, 1997. This image is from slide film.
Click here to return to the Kopernik Space Images Page
George Normandin, KAS