These are some of my photos of Comet Hyakutake, as photographed from my home in the mountains of western North Carolina, March 23, 1996. The camera was a Nikonos 5 underwater camera with a 35mm lens, with ASA 1000 film.
This is a photo of Comet Hyakutake rising over the ridge east of my observatory. The small building at left houses the telescope when not in use, along with other things. Visible in the lower center of the photo are silhouettes of my telescope and stepladder.
This photo was taken later in the night, when the comet was in darker, higher skies.
At it's closest this comet was only 9.3 million miles from the Earth.
Hyakutake is a long period comet, taking thousands of years to make one orbit around the Sun. It last passed through the inner Solar System about 17,500 years ago. This time the Sun's gravitational forces sent Comet Hyakutake into a still longer orbit. It's next return will be in about 29,500 years.
I think Comet Hyakutake was the best of all the comets I've ever seen. It was biggest and brightest natural thing I've ever seen in the sky. I had never imagined that I might see a comet with a tail that stretched so far across the sky, but when it was at it's best I could see Hyakutake's tail across 90 degrees of sky!
It seemed to me that Comet Hyakutake was the perfect, classic, epitome of a comet. The comet I had imagined, the comet I had always dreamed of seeing.
Photos © 1996 by Bob Hampton All Rights Reserved