The Sky at Night

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The Independent Online
Comet Hale-Bopp, one of the brightest comets seen for decades, will adorn the evening sky in the second half of March and early April. It is already bright enough to be spotted with the naked eye, though for this month in the early morning sky before dawn. During February, look forwards the eastern horizon at least an hour and a half before sunrise. The darker the sky, the better the view.

Discovered by Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp on 22 July 1995, this comet will appear bright in the sky because it is exceptionally large, not because it is making a particularly close approach. The nearest it gets to us is 123 million miles - more distant than the Sun - so there is no danger of a collision. But at about 25 miles across this sizzling cosmic snowball is more than twice the size of Halley's Comet.

A vast amount of information on Comet Hale-Bopp is available on the World Wide Web. Try http:// New Products. jpl. nasa. gov/ comet/ as a starting point.