Astronomy Picture of the Day

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

September 17, 1996
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Comet Hale-Bopp Fades
Credit: N. Thomas (MPI), H. Rauer (Obs. Paris) and H. Boehnhardt (U. Munchen), Danish 1.54m Telescope (La Silla), ESO

Explanation: Comet Hale-Bopp has faded in the past few weeks. For Hale-Bopp, promised as the Great Comet of 1997, this was a bit of a disappointment -- but not entirely unexpected. Comet Hale-Bopp continues to approach the Sun - making the comet itself brighten, but now the Earth is moving away from it - making the comet appear to dim. Experts disagree on just how bright Hale-Bopp will become. Optimists hope it will eventually outshine Comet Hyakutake, but some pessimists now expect no better than 3rd magnitude - hardly visible from well-lit cities. Comet Hale-Bopp still appears to be, however, a very large comet, and is sure to show much activity as it nears the Sun. The comet should reach peak brightness in March 1997. This image was taken on August 18th and shows gas shed from the nucleus of the comet.

Tomorrow's picture: Stars in the Infrared Sky

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