The comets are the scapegoats; how much is blamed on their account!
And however, they are so harmless, yes, basically so pitiful fellows,
that I might be allowed here to plead something to the benefit of them,
to tell something about their strange existance, demonstrating, how the
comets are the most intresting celestial bodies in fact, and how they
are partly still somewhat mysterious, but how they are also nevertheless
very light and windy fellows, which are missing very much solidity -
taken the word in the broadest sense.
(Bruno H. Bürgel, Aus fernen Welten, Ullstein 1910)
The comet was discovered by the (at that time unemployed) Yuji Hyakutake in Japan with a 25x150 binocular at the end of January 1996 at a brightness of 11th magnitude. It was the second discovered comet within five weeks discovered by the same astronomer, where C/1996 B2 was only four degrees or eight diameters of the full moon away from the position of the first discovered comet C/1995 Y1.
For the pictures I used a Pentax Z-20. The first image was done with a f1.7/50mm objective and with a Kodak Color Gold 200 film. For the second image a two times faster film 400 ASA was in the camera, and this was three hours later north of Schwanenwerder at the Wannsee. The moon was already low at that time. The third image was done with a f4-5.6/70-200mm objective and a Kodak Ekatarcolor 1600 another hour later, where the cyan colored coma of the comet is changed to green. This photo was also done at the Wannsee beach, and also this time were wild boars around.
It was incredible luck that taking the pictures were successful. So many things could had gone wrong. Not at least the camera had the small flaw to scratch the negative sometimes and I had only a few weeks of experience before. - After the passage at the zenith the comet moved into Perseus within the following days and became fainter. Photographies from the 31st of March were all went wrong because of the high brightness of the sky and the pictures.
C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake) reached its nearest position to the Sun (Perihelion) at the 1st of May 1996. Then it wasn't visible within the city, anymore. The distance to Earth was about 1.2 astronomical units, "Hyakutake"'s distance to the Sun was 0.23 astronomical units, then. Currently, five years after perihelion it is 15.5 astronomical units away from Earth and about 16.2 astronomical units far from Sun. With this at the ecliptic the comet would be behind Saturn on the half way to Uranus. When it will return is somewhat uncertain, even more whether there will be still a human eye to watch it.
The above previews are referencing to larger JPEGs, that are
For more pictures from around the world see the NASA/JPL Comet Hyakutake page maintained by Ron Baalke and the Index to the Comet Hyakutake of the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day.
C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake) had (different to Hale-Bopp) also an own posted FAQ of the CBAT, which is available as a local copy. Last year reseachers found out that a strange behaviour within the data of the solar polar orbitting probe Ulysses was cause by a flight of the probe through the huge tail of the comet Hyakutake, also published in an article in sci.space.news.
At the distance of about Jupiter orbit Hale-Bopp was crossing the ecliptic in February 1996 from South to North, reaching Mars orbit distance at the end of 1996 and was crossing the ecliptic in May 1997 from North to South again. This second crossing was the final for a very long time, at least for some millennia. In the mid of May the comet became invisible from the Northern hemisphere of Earth.
The early discovery date gave enough opportunity to calculate the orbit of this comet and to get a good brightness estimation. Because of its high brightness at the discovery time at that distance place he got the advanced credits of becoming the greatest comet of the century, a hundred times brighter than its predecessor C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake) and also brighter than Jupiter and Mars at opposition. Even in the worst case as Hyakutake at its best time also Hale-Bopp should become visible within the cities of the Northern hemisphere.
According to the photo camera in the meantime I had changed from a Pentax Z-20 to a Pentax MZ-5, while the objective was still the f1.7/5mm objective bought especially for the comet Hyakutake.
But even from a better point of view I hadn't the luck to make a better photo, like the ones from others made of Hale-Bopp with the impressive blue ion tail. (I also never really saw this ion tail with the naked eye.) The second image of the ones presented herein is from the 1st of April from a location North of Berlin-Buch. Its one of the best images of this series from that day. All photos made with a zoom objective where somewhat green shifted, grainy and because of the necessary longer exposure time with only a few details. (I chose Berlin-Buch because its one of the more remote Northern districts of Berlin and therefore at that place the Northern sky where Hale-Bopp was to find at that time had fewer backlight problems. In fact the sky North of Berlin is divided into two parts, while in the South only the brightest objects like the Moon or the Planets get through the dome of dust, the sky in the North is under better conditions nicely starry black. Berlin-Buch is also a station of the city train and therefore this place is reachable in an acceptable time.)
C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp) was reaching its maximum brightness (ca. 0m0) mainly because of size. Probably this comet was a very young and new snowball. If it would had come as near to Earth as C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake) Hale-Bopp would had been a real event of the century, brighter and more impressive than comet Halley 1910 and comet West 1976.
But comparing to the announcements and its press echo the great comet of 1997 was a bit disappointing, although it really was brighter and better visible than comet Hyakutake. Different to its predecessor comet Hale-Bopp really was visible from within the city as the last picture of the herein shown is demonstrating. This until this month not shown picture was done from within Berlin from the Breitscheidplatz at the end of March (made with a Minox 35ML). Only the scan of the (9x13cm) picture makes it difficult to differ from the comet and dust particles on the photo...
For images from all around the world see for instance the NASA/JPL Comet Hale-Bopp page maintained by Ron Baalke and the Index to the Comet Hale-Bopp of the NASA APOD. Also the Wilhelm Foerster observatory Berlin has its own Hale-Bopp image page...
From end of March until the start of May 2002 the comet was at the Northern Berlin sky. While it became steadily fainter it was rising also steadily into the sky, and from the 1st of April on it was circumpolar in the Berlin area, so from this time on it was visible all through the night, theoretically.
Within the night of April 4 to 5 there was the chance to watch the event when the comet was passing the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). After this the path of the comet lead it from Andromeda through the southern areas of Cassiopeia, through Cepheus and then into Draco, where it reached its closest position to Earth.
The picture on the right side was also published as the WFS Picture of the Week 22/02. It shows the comet at the evening of the 4th of April 2002. The location for this photo was next to the Western border of Berlin, at the Hahneberg (where also an observatory is located). Despite of the remote place the photo shows clearly the light pollution of the Northwestern sky. I had with me not only the digital camera (Olympus E-100RS), but also the analog camera (Pentax MZ-5 + Pentax FA 50mm/1.7). The picture is showing the result of the analog camera, which was scanned from a 9x13cm printout. The comet is somewhat obvious within the lower right quarter. The picture is referencing to a digital one, which is showing a complete view (1360x1024 180kB JPEG) of the Northwestern sky of Staaken with Perseus and Cassiopeia at the sky, but also with the comet which is somewhat harder to find, though.
How a picture of the comet and the Andromeda nebular could look like when taken outside of the city and with the appropriate equipment is shown with the WFS Picture of the Week 17/02. More pictures you will find at the Comet page of the NASA/JPL, further informations about C/2002 C1 (Ikeya-Zhang) are to find at the Comet and Meteor site of the AMS (American Meteor Society).
created: 2002-11-18 - modified: 2002-11-18 - modified: 2004-06-19
-- jd --