Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day we feature a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

October 30, 1995
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Comet Hale-Bopp Update
Credit: NASA, HST, H.A. Weaver (ARC) and P.D. Feldman (JHU).

Explanation: Will comet Hale-Bopp become the brightest comet of the Century in early 1997? Since its discovery in July this year, Hale-Bopp has caused much speculation. Even though it is still beyond the orbit of Jupiter it is astonishingly bright and expected to get much brighter as it plunges inward, toward the Sun. In this latest Hubble Space Telescope image a bright clump of material (above center) has apparently been ejected by evaporation and the rotation of the icy nucleus (below center). Astronomers are using this and other observations to try to figure out if Hale-Bopp is really a giant comet or a smaller object which will fizzle out sooner than expected as it approaches the Sun.

Tomorrow's picture: A Halloween Invasion from Mars

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (GMU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA).
NASA Technical Rep.: Sherri Calvo. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC