Hale-Bopp was bright and obvious in the sky, a spectacular display, even though it's path kept it far from the Earth. It's closest approach was about 120 million miles from Earth. It only appeared bright in our sky because it is such a big comet.
Hale-Bopp viewed from the top of Roan Mountain, North Carolina, March 22 1997.
The blue tail is gasses released by the comet. These gasses are rapidly blown away in the high velocity Solar wind, so the gas tail always points directly away from the Sun.
This is a view from Altamont, North Carolina.
The white tail is dust and small debris left behind by the comet as it orbits the Sun. Meteor showers happen when the Earth passes through these debris trails.
A view of Hale Bopp from a hilltop at Lunday, North Carolina.
With my telescope I was able to watch this comet for several months before and after it's closest approach.
A view from the baseball field parking lot at Mountain Heritage High School in Burnsville, North Carolina, on March 20, 1997.
Through the telescope the concentric, progressively more diffuse shells or layers of gas surrounding the nucleus were plainly obvious. These shells were caused by jets or vents on the spinning nucleus (Hale-Bopp's nucleus was making one revolution every 11.4 hours), expelling gasses heated by solar radiation.
A view from the High School entrance, including my daughter Cynthia, then 5 years old, who patiently posed for the time exposure photo.
The streaks behind Cynthia are headlights of vehicles on highway 19E.
All these pictures were made using a Nikonos 5 underwater camera with a 35mm lens and ASA 1000 film.
Photos © 1998 by Bob Hampton All Rights Reserved