Hale-Bobb comet glows in first IR image

Scientists at the European Southern Observatory (La Silla, Chile) have obtained the first infrared image of the comet Hale-Bopp. The comet is named after the two Americans who discovered it on July 23, 1995. The image was made on August 5 using the observatory`s 2.2-m telescope through a 1.5-µm-wavelength filter to expose a 256 ¥ 256-pixel detector for 8 min. Each pixel covers 0.52 arc seconds, and the complete image is 2.2 ¥ 2.2 arc minutes.

Hale-Bobb comet glows in first IR image

Rick DeMeis

Scientists at the European Southern Observatory (La Silla, Chile) have obtained the first infrared image of the comet Hale-Bopp. The comet is named after the two Americans who discovered it on July 23, 1995. The image was made on August 5 using the observatory`s 2.2-m telescope through a 1.5-µm-wavelength filter to expose a 256 ¥ 256-pixel detector for 8 min. Each pixel covers 0.52 arc seconds, and the complete image is 2.2 ¥ 2.2 arc minutes.

The center of the image shows the bright comet nucleus in a large, well-resolved dust coma having a diameter of roughly 1 arc minute. An upward extension is the beginnings of a dust tail produced by sunlight pressure on the coma particles.

The comet is now between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn and will make its closest approach to the Sun in April 1997. Based on preliminary brightness and orbital data, Hale-Bop¥has potential to become "the comet of the century, if not the millennium," as some early reports have trumpeted. Remembering the overstated Comet Kohoutek predictions of the 1970s and as well as those for Comet Halley, scientists are still cautious in their assessments of the visual impact of Hale-Bop¥for Earth-based observers.

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