Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Little Guy, 1. Highly Educated Astronomers with Zillion Dollar Observatories, 0

On this date in 1995, amateur astronomers Alan Hale(Not that Alan Hale, people. Focus!)

and Thomas Bopp, working independently of each other and never having met, both discovered a new comet.

Alan Hale was tracking known comets in his driveway in New Mexico when he stumbled on a new comet. Once he established that he was viewing an unknown object, he contacted the proper authorities for such matters that same night.
Meanwhile, over in Arizona, Thomas Bopp, who did not even own a telescope, happened upon the object while glancing through the eyepiece of a friend's telescope.
He, too, confirmed that this object was not listed on any star atlas, and he, too, contacted the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams.
The next morning, it was announced that a new comet had been discovered!
By the time all was said and done, Comet Hale-Bopp had been visible to the naked eye for a staggering 569 days. (The previous record was held by the Great Comet of 1811, which was visible for about 9 months.) For more than 8 weeks, Hale-Bopp had a magnitude of 0, and was just slightly dimmer than Sirius, the brightest star in our sky. (Sirius has an apparent magnitude of -1.47, for comparison.)
Hale-Bopp, with its gorgeous two tails, (one of which was blue) remains a favorite memory for many stargazers.
Keep watching the skies, little buddies.
You might get all famous and whatnot.

P.S. For all you health nuts out there, Hale-Bopp will return in the year 4377.

No comments: