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March 21, 1996
Near Comet Hyakutake's Nucleus
Credit: Olivier Hainaut (IoA, Hawaii) and Richard West (ESO), 3.5-m New Technology Telescope, European Southern Observatory
Explanation: This March 19th false-color picture of Comet Hyakutake from one of the most sophisticated ground based telescopes captures the area surrounding the comet's nucleus. A comet's nucleus - not directly visible here - is a solid dirty iceball probably no more than 10 kilometers across. This image shows, for the first time, features of irregular brightness in the coma surrounding the nucleus. The beginning of the ion tale is visible as the bright feature emanating from the right, approaching about 1000 km from nucleus. At the distance of the comet, the whole field captured here is roughly the size of the Earth. If it's clear, Comet Hyakutake may be easily visible tonight!
Authors & editors:
NASA Technical Rep.: Sherri Calvo. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC