Hale, Alan Southwest Institute for Space Research, Cloudcroft, New Mexico.
Last reviewed:February 2019
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- Context of cometary discoveries
- Brightness prediction
- Scientific observations
- Third tail
- Future evolution
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
One of the brightest comets of the twentieth century and among the most observed comets in human history. Comet Hale-Bopp could be seen with the naked eye in the night sky between February and May 1997 over the heavily populated Northern Hemisphere; other bright comets usually only remain visible for days or weeks (Fig. 1). The comet stands among the largest on record in terms of the size of its nucleus, which is the solid, central collection of ices and dust at the heart of a comet. Hale-Bopp's discovery by amateur astronomers well before it would make its closest passage to the Sun some 21 months later afforded the research community extensive lead time to study the object in depth. The long runup to Hale-Bopp's sweep through the inner solar system also encouraged media coverage and engagement by the general public. See also: Astronomy; Comet; Solar system
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