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I was so disappointed with myself on Saturday. I woke up at 3:30 AM to trek out in to the country to get my first *dark sky* view of HB. When I looked out the window, it was almost as bright as day from the streetlights reflecting off the fog. It was thick as pea-soup. Dang! I muttered. I wandered around the house for a few minutes, stumbling in to a few pieces of furniture, the dog, and kids toys. I peeked out the window again after dozing on the couch for a few minutes. The fog was still there, and I realized I hadn't dreamed it, so I went back to bed. I woke up with a start at about 7:05, and was immediately wide awake. I went to the window, and to my horror it was crystal clear, with a brightening twilight. *When did that happen?* I wondered. No matter, I had missed my chance. Clear, relatively warm weekend mornings are RARE in this neck of the woods. Contrary to last nights forecast, this morning was clear. I took the opportunity to go out and view HB, if only from my backyard. I found the comet a more impressive sight than my report of the 30th. I think I under estimated it's brightness on the 30th. I was going over some comparison notes, and star magnitudes. I had the nucleus between gamma Sagitta (Sge) and zeta Aql. This AM, I found the nucleus to be easy naked eye, and slightly brighter than zeta Aquila. That puts the nucleus at about 2.8 or so. The nucleus is well defined and compact in my 8 X 40's, with not much of a coma from my slightly light polluted skies. The tail appeared slightly longer this AM (owing to it's greater altitude?), with M71 and 9 Sge glowing through it's haze. A very impressive sight. I estimated the nucleus and coma together to be brighter than gamma Aql (about 2.5m). Interestingly, my visual sketch and plot on a map put HB, M71 and zeta Sge almost in a straight line. Something that according to my astronomy program, was not supposed to happen for another 12 hours. I probably need to update the ephemeris for HB. The moon is new tomorrow, a high pressure is in the area (how long will it stay?), and my hopes are high for a clear morning Saturday or Sunday. I am sure my view will be dramatically improved under **dark-skies**. May the manufacturers who build streetlights, and the politicians and bureacrats who vote to put them in, one day see the dark and pay reaparations for all their evil deeds! There should be laws against these mindless fixtures they choose to install in EGF, I can see about 18 street lights from my yard alone! Maybe they should pass a law that requires them to remove two for every one they put in as well! Clear skies, Paul.
PS in my previous messages, read Sag to = Sge, (comparisson stars were in Sagitta, not the more brilliant constellation of Sagittarius.... oops, a minor typo).
Just got in form viewing Hale-Bopp this AM. I was a bit disappointed, yet optimistic when I looked outside. Clouds... yet stars. So I dragged myself around the room, still half asleep and got dressed, got the dog and took her out. When I looked to the east, there was the comet with so much promise looming low above the horizon. Actually it was just above my neighbors house... bright... exciting... beckoning... yet threatened by pesky clouds... me willing them away... Cassiopeia (my earth-bound dog) seemed indifferent... all this going on just outside my neighbors house, and they don't have a clue... probably don't even know what a Hale-Bopp is... From my vantage point, the HB nucleus/coma is much as it appeared over the last two days, perhaps brightening slightly. Comparing with zeta and gamma Aql, and beta and 37 Cyg, I have the nucleus/coma at about 2.7m. I guess I should admit here that my estimates are probably fainter than actual. I am stating what my eye sees in an immediate glance, and first impression estimate. In other words, I am not spending much time trying to figure out the *total light* of the coma, which is what I should really be doing. The nucleus/coma is amorphous and definitely extended, even from town. And with a first glance estimate of 2.7m, that should tell anyone that it is easy naked eye. Now for a total light guesstimate, it may at least 0.5m brighter, or ~2.2m. I am not skilled enough to try and figure out what this would be when taking the tail in to account! I hopped in the van and headed south to some more favorable skies. By this time, the clouds had pretty much dissapated or blown away and the skies were clear. I was glimpsing HB through the window while aiming for a spot I thought would be away from street lights. As I pulled off the road, and readied my binoculars, I could easily see HB through the windshield. By this time (5:45 AM), HB and it's surrounding star field was well above the horizon. This morning, gamma Sge shines from within the tail of HB, and the two make a striking display in the eastern sky. Here in the open country, I could trace the tail out to about 1 degree or so with my naked eye. This is about what my binocular aided eyes were able to do in town. My in-the-country magnitude estimate is slightly higher than in-town, about 2.6m, closer to epsilon Cyg in brightness. As I put the binoculars to my eyes, I am immediately rewarded with a beautiful tail. It is my first time *really seeing* the tail of comet Hale-Bopp. It is as if I am meeting the comet for the first time. I stand speechless, and thoughtless for several minutes and just look. As expected, the tail is assymetrical in shape and streaks upward (to the west). From the nucleus/coma, the tail extends in a fan shaped pattern out to about gamma Sge, with the aforementioned star enveloped in the southern fringe, or edge of the tail. The northern side of the tail is much more dramatic! It is the Lions share of the tail, streaking nearly to 12 Vulpecula (12 Vul). As I trace out the tail, numerous stars shine though it's shimmer, momentarily trapped by the comets shroud. 12 Vul itself is not quite captured, the tail falls short by less than a quqarter of a degree. There is a brighter streak in the tail that is just north of the center of the main extension. The end of this streak is highlighted by SAO87803. THe overall length of the tail as I traced it this AM is about 3.7 degrees. This tells me that darker skies yet will reveal it in much more detail and beauty (ref: John's forwarded report form Flagstaff of a 10-15 degree tail!) As I take a few notes, and make a quick sketch, the light begins to brighten in the east, the Sun is nearing. The Sun for without which no life would be possible. The Sun which breathes life in to comets, so they may exhale a part of themselves, that we may stand, stare, and wonder in awe...
Clear skies, Paul.
No note, letter or journal entry of mine seems to be complete without a BTW. So here it is. An interesting anomaly occured while viewing the comet. At about 5:50 AM, a thin band of haze formed and suddenly blotted out most of the sky. I could barely see Deneb through the haze. Then almost as suddenly, it was gone. It was not moving clouds, it happened to fast (about 3 minutes). I took time to look around, there was no leading or trailing edge, wind, or sign of movement. It was like fog on a bathroom mirror, it formed, then it evaporated off.
It is a crisp and cold (-10F) morning, but it is clear outside, the first one since Saturday AM. I went driving Sunday AM, NE of East Grand Forks and found a *dark* sky sight about 15 miles out of town (no lights close by). Unfortunately, the skies did not cooperate and remained cloudy. This morning I went south on County Road 58 again to my *convenient dark sky site*. I watched HB through my window as I headed out into the country, thinking that it has gotten brighter again. As I turned off the road, and turned off my lights, I looked through the windshield and made a rough sketch of HB's position. Comparing to beta, epsilon and gamma Cyg, I estimated the coma/nucleus to be approximately equal to epsilon's magnitude (2.5m). As the session went on, and my eyes grew more adapted to the ambient light, I reestimated. This time I found the coma/nucleus to be brighter than epsilon, not quite as bright as gamma Cyg, putting the magnitude at approximately 2.3m. The total light is of course brighter, I am just taking into consideration it's unaided eye appearance of the central condensation. While putting the glass to my eye, I was thrilled to see more detail in the tail than my last observation. Is sky clarity (seeing) and transparency slightly better this AM? The tail is more readily apparent and I can trace it further than last Sunday. My sketch shows the tail is obvious to 4.5 degrees, and I lose it in the Milky way, so it is hard to tell exactly where it ends. But it is certainly longer than 5 degrees. I can see it more plainly with the unaided eye as well. The first degree or so of the tail is brilliant, star SAO 88315 (at 6.3m) has a hard time shining through. At 7.2m, star SAO 88244 is at the edge of the very bright portion of the tail, and looks brighter (more obvious) than the aforementioned 6.3m star. The nucleus/coma through the glass appears to be symmetrical, and somewhat elongated. The type I and type II tails are more distinct, a section of the gas tail is brighter at the core, more diffuse at the edges. The dust tail sweeps to the south of the E-W line and has a few extensions more distinct (streamers) than the background glow. The gas tail streaks toward the zenith (and west) and gradually becomes lost in the subtle glow of the Milky Way. I can trace the gas tail easily past 16 Vul and SAO 88088 and lose it near SAO 87830 (6.5 degrees away). This comet is really putting on a show. I would be interested to hear your observations. Clear skies, and enjoy!! Paul.
Much to my dismay, it was cloudy yesterday AM, and partly cloudy with haze this AM. Figuring this may be my best shot this three day weekend to see HB, I headed out into the country for the best view. Contrast to John L. who has to head out into the city if for some reason he wanted a lousy view <grin!>. Because of the haze, limitng magnitude suffered by about 2 magnitudes. I could barely make out Eta Cyg at +3.9m. Hale Bopp was none the less easy at about 21d above the horizon. In spite of the lousy conditions, I make HB to be brighter than my last observation, slightly beating out Gamma Cyg (which is +2.2mv). Once again, brightness estimates are made unaided eye, judging the overall first impression brightness of the coma/nucleus. At the time of the estimate, transparency in the area of Gam Cyg and HB was roughly equal. In this haze, the tail suffers drastically. The brightest portion of the tail extends about 1d this AM. With SAO 88631 (at +7.0m) on the southern fringe. The dust tail extends to just beyond 25 Vul (+5.6m) which dramatically highlights the end of the tail. Looking at the extended (but tenuous) gas tail, I trace it out to the environs of 23 Vul, near the star SAO 88379. This is about 4.25 degrees, dramatically shorter than I would expect to see if the skies were better. I did note the appearance of a brighter stream of material in the central region of the Type II (?) tail. It extended about 1.5d and ended to the north (through SAO88583), and just beyond 25 Vul. The Type I tail was diffuse, and unremarakable under these conditions.
Anyway, clear skies. Paul.
Another dismal morning, but I trekked out to my convenient dark sky sight. The whole while travelling out (about five minutes), I could see HB looming in the east, but awash in haze. Altair suffered even more being lower, to the south, and at the fringe of the sucker hole that lured me into the country. Deneb shone on the other side of the hole, and I hoped that HB would somehow remain in the center. 41 Cyg (at 4.0mv) was barely discernable for fleeting moments. The limiting magnitude was definitely not indicative of transparent skies, having to look to magnitude 2.0 and 3.0 stars for reference. HB has apparently brightened more since my last observation. It is easily brighter than gamma Cyg, but under these adverse conditions, it is hard to make any accurate determination, or equal comparison. I would not go so far as to say that it's unaided eye appearance came close to that of Deneb. I would guestimate it's unaided appearance to be around 1.8mv. I hope the skies improve after the moon swings through full. HB's tail is foreshortened as well. I could not even trace it to SAO 88599, which is a mere 3.5d away. SAO 88808 shines in the tail, but little detail can be seen, other than the tail is fan shaped, and centered in the direction of SAO 88704. The longer stream of material heads in the direction of SAO 88599. In two days, HB's tail should pass by NGC 6940, which may make a good image if someone has clear skies... Clear skies (hopefully), Paul.
Feb 19, 1997 A glance out the window this morning and I knew my luck with the weather had changed. Spica and Mars shown brightly out my southern window, two objects I have had to struggle, or wait for a clear patch of sky to see. I gathered my things together and headed out Hartsville road toward my brothers where the skies are pretty good. HB is brilliant to the east, easily outshining all stars in the east except for Deneb, Altair and Vega. My (unaided eye) impression of HB is very near Deneb's magnitude, but Deneb edges out HB slightly. With this AM's more transparent skies, I put HB close to 1.5mv. Even from town, HB sports a short but discernable tail. The tail becomes much more prominent as you leave the vesitges of the (#$@%) streetlights. Through the glass, HB is awesome, and still a month away from it's best. The coma/nucleus is near 27 Vul, and overwhelms anything in the 6.5d FOV of my 8 X 40's. The tail is split in two distinct sections. The brighter portion of the tail (dust Type II) is shorter, broader and extends toward SAO 88750. I lose it about 2d away from the coma near this star. The rift which separates the Type II and Type I tail is not sompletely devoid of material, the glow in this area is just somewhat subdued, a fainter shimmer. The rift is on a line from the coma to star SAO 88807. Travelling south, the tail becomes gradually brighter as you enter the Type II tail. Here it extends out to SAO 88570 then gradually fades as your eye travels further south, losing it near SAO88671. Tracing the Type I tail, it extends from the coma past and parallel to stars SAO 88820 and SAO 88771. It is obvious and bright to just about SAO 69888 (about 5o 30' away) where it becomes tenuous, and harder to trace. Using averted vision, I can trace it further to near SAO 69741, nearly 6o 30' away. A comment here, the skies are not as transparent this AM as on Feb 12, I had a harder time seeing 9m stars through the glass (although both mornings were very clear), something easier done 12 Feb. So I can only assume that with more transparent skies (th emoon is on the opposite side of the sky, setting), I would be tracing the tail further. Other than the rapidly expanding, lengthening tail, the most notable aspect of HB this AM is a short, bright, luminous jet of material that extends to the SW of the coma/nucleus. It is obvious as an apendage even at 8X. I only wish I had my scope out this AM so as to view in more detail. The finger of material feeds right in to the Type II, and is about 10' long when it becomes indistinguishable from the surrounding material. Perhaps this is an indication of greater things to some in the following mornings.
Clear skies, Paul.
I awoke at ten of six this morning, since I'd been at the ob- servatory photographing the full Moon and didn't get to bed until well after 11 o'clock. By the time I reached the observatory at five minutes after the hour and had uncovered the SCT, dawn was already evident, and so I elected not to photograph Comet Hale-Bopp and instead decided to make a drawing. At 6:15 I set about doing so while using a 40 mm SW ocular (32x) of the 2.1o field that had nearly two dozen stars. Sky transparency was quite good in the calm -7oF air, since stars to 5.5 magnitude were clearly discernible to the naked eye and to 11th magnitude in the telescope, even though the moonlight that reflected off the white prairie landscape was well more than enough that I didn't need a flashlight to see the drawing pad, the Moon being 15o alti- tude in the west southwest. Afterwards while using GUIDE v. 5.0 software, I spent the better part of an hour plotting position angles of the 13 stars that I'd included in the drawing, comet and star separation distances, and the position angles of its dust and ion tails and the two bright jets that extended southwest from the pseudo nucleus. Although I didn't used a defocus- ing method to make a magnitude estimate, the coma appeared well brighter than the observatory's namesake star (magnitude 1.25). My last view at 6:40 showed little more than the nucleus and two jets, since sunrise was rapidly approaching. An observing log follows.
CST Comet Hale-Bopp field stars comments / other object(s) (-6UT) Alt Az mag PAo sep Alt Az ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- 06:05 29.2o 77.9o 8-inch Meade 2080LX6 f/6.3 SCT 40 mm ocular (32x & 2.09o field) Moon 16.2o 256.4o Twilight began at 05:45 06:10 30.0o 78.7o Moon 15.4o 257.3o 06:15 30.7o 79.6o made field drawing 20hr54.5min RA +29o10.4' DEC mid-tail PA 327o dust tail PA 317o ion tail PA 341o jets (2) PA 189o / 227o 7.3 327 33.0' SAO 89241 within the tail 7.6 263 19.2' SAO 89240 7.7 339 21.0' SAO 89259 within the tail 7.7 294 22.4' SAO 89238 within the tail 8.1 196 12.8' SAO 89263 8.6 18 37.0' SAO 89283 9.4 352 32.9' SAO 89261 within the tail 10.0 357 29.4' SAO 89266 within the tail 10.2 17 31.9' GSC 2183 521 10.3 159 11.1' GSC 2183 1034 10.3 229 21.7' GSC 2183 802 10.4 227 12.4' GSC 2183 2276 10.7 352 31.3' GSC 2183 853 within the tail Moon 14.6o 258.4o 06:18 31.2o 80.1o 26 mm SP ocular (49x & 1.1o field) Moon 14.1o 259.0o 6:40 34.7o 84.0o only nucleus and two jets visible Moon 10.6o 263.1o Sun (sunrise 07:30) -8.7o 94.9o
John Leppert Deneb Obs (ND) 48o56'07"N 99o09'40"W: 23 Feb 1997 1600 CST