The Sky at Night

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The Independent Online
Comet Hale-Bopp is now a spectacular first magnitude object, easily visible to the naked eye. It is expected to brighten by about another magnitude during the coming month. As anticipated, it has developed the two tails characteristic of comets: a broad curving dust tail and a narrower, straighter gas tail. Low power binoculars will afford a fine view. The darker your skies, the more tail you will see. A finding chart is hardly necessary since the comet is so conspicuous, but it serves to illustrate the comet's day-to-day passage against the stars. For the next couple of weeks, Comet Hale-Bopp is still best observed in the hour or two before dawn, low in the north-eastern sky. From the middle of the month, there will also be an evening viewing opportunity. The comet will hang low over the northwest horizon as the evening sky darkens. By the end of March, early evening will be the better time to observe it.

Jaqueline Mitton

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