Friday, August 9, 1996

In town with a kid & Hale-Bopp

07:00 UT, 8/9/96....

After looking at M22 / Jupiter, I poked around for a while, finding small dimmer globulars. Later, on to M15.

I'll get to Hale-Bopp in a second, but first, I want to relate a quick story about my 8 year old daughter. She loves looking through telescopes. She's accompanyinng me to Fremont Peak tomorrow night, then for 5 days of dark sky observing next week. But... tonight....

I have a loaner scope from the San Jose Astronomical Association... a 10" f/4.5. It is the *perfect* size for my little girl. She pushes it around by bear-hugging it. She used the Telrad to find Arcturus, Altair, Jupiter and to scan the Milky way under low power.

So, I thought.... let's challenge her. With a 20mm eyepiece in the focuser, I showed her, naked eye, which star Vega is. Pretty easy, right? Very high and bright. Then I described the parallelogram shape of the body, and told her where M57 - The Ring Nebula - could be found. I turned my back and continued using my 10" f/5.6 for a minute or two.

All of a sudden... shrieks of excitement! "I got it! I got it! Come look!"

Sure enough, off to one side, was a very bright, large, gasket. The look on her face was astonishing. She did not want to go to bed. She asked where the Big Dipper was (behind the roof of my home) so she could split the double in Alcor / Mizar (is that right?). What a night.

So, now to Hale-Bopp. The last thing I looked at was the comet. I had read David Knisley's report (on sci.astro.amateur) today, wherein someone had mistaken the coma for a tail. Knisley said, and I believe he's in Arizona, that the coma is quite pronounced, and is pointing sunward. The tail, is quite faint and about 1.5 degrees in length. So, I began figuring the sun direction in my field of view, and suddenly, I was seeing a faint 1/2 degree spread *away* from the coma.... away from the sun.

I would love some confirmation on this. My home, has, for the city, a very good southern sky. It is quite dark... with the Milky Way obvious in Sagittarius, the Cygnus rift is noticeable, and the Ophichus portion was also apparent. I am not yet proficient at estimating limiting mag, but I would guess about mag 5 toward the south, maybe a bit better.

What do you observers on the list think? Am I getting a little tail?

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