Comet 1983d, IRAS Araki Alcock, photographed from my observatory on Kwajalein, in the Marshall Islands, using a Nikonos IV underwater camera with a 35mm lens (not exactly telephoto!) and ASA 1000 film. The comet is the green smudge at the center of the photo. The red streak is a guy wire of a nearby antenna tower, lit by the red light atop the tower.
The first comet I ever saw was Comet 1983d, otherwise known as IRAS-Araki-Alcock, which passed through the inner realm of our solar system in May of 1983. IRAS-Araki-Alcock passed within 3 million miles of the Earth, the closest approach of any comet since Comet Lexell in 1770. The nucleus of the comet just looked like a moderately bright star. It's coma (head) seemed huge, at least 3 degrees across (six full moons!) but very diffuse, and it had almost no visible tail! Because the comet was so close to the Earth it's motion against the stars was visible through the telescope even at low power.
I watched it until it set below the horizon every night until it had disappeared from naked eye view, which was only a few days.
For all I knew this might be the best comet I would ever see. It seemed obvious that it would at least be rated as one of the great comets of the century, maybe as THE great comet of the century! I couldn't believe my good fortune.
© 1999 by Bob Hampton