Hale-Bopping It or
The Second Annual Spring Cometfest
No matter what you call it, we are in for a treat again. I won't even think of trying to compete with the six articles plus many side vignettes in the three major publications (and I haven't seen Sky News' March/April contribution, yet.) If you are planning to do some photography of the comet, one or more of these March issues is a must. Techniques, key photo opportunity dates and the best new films are discussed.
Let's just try for a short "when and where" until the end of March. Get out of the city to darker skies, preferably with a low eastern horizon. The comet is expected to double in brightness through February to mid-March. If much of a tail develops, expect spectacular views, even with the naked-eye.
The comet will be passing Cygnus along the lower edge of the Milky Way, through Andromeda to Perseus by mid-April (see enclosed map.) In addition to knowing where Hale-Bopp is, it's also very important to keep track of the phases of and whereabouts of the Moon.
Up until Feb. 18 there will be no Moon to interfere with early morning views. From Feb. 19 to Mar. 5 the Moon will be bright and up most of the night. On Mar. 6 Hale-Bopp rises about 1 hour before Moonrise and for about a week and a half until Mar. 19 the Moon will again co-operate with us, providing dark skies. It is at this time that the comet becomes both a morning and evening event as it just moves into Andromeda.
For evening viewing of the comet, the sky will be free of moonlight from about Mar. 26 through to Apr. 8. It should reach maximum brightness and size on or around Mar. 28. It has the potential to outshine Mars and even Sirius and could have a 10-15 degree tail. If your observing has been dormant for a while (and whose hasn't been, around here, lately?), get out and have a look at what may be the comet of the decade or even of the century.
* 14- crescent Moon moves through the Hyades in Taurus.
* 16- Saturn moves N of the celestial equator until the year 2010.
* 24- Moon 3 deg. S of Mars.
* 7&8- BCA observing nights (check first!)
* 17-3am- Mars at opposition to the earth.
* 22- Hale-Bopp's closest approach to Earth.
* 23- partial (92%) lunar eclipse. Mars 4 deg. N of eclipsed Moon (photo opp?)
* 25- Hale-Bopp 5 deg. N of M31 (photo opp?)
* 31- Hale-Bopp's closest approach to the Sun.
* Saturn is disappearing into the SW evening twilight.
* Mars rises mid-evening brightening to mag. -1.3 by Mar. 17.
* Mars is in retrograde loop from Virgo back to Leo.
* Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus are low in the dawn sky, but rising earlier each day.
* Venus is lost in the early morning glare of the Sun.
* Mercury is in the eastern morning sky for February.
After passing the Sun, the best evening views are in late March/early April.
Hamilton Amateur Astronomers
Maintained by Rob Roy