This is one of the latest images of comet Hale-Bopp. Notice the intense tail
Click on image for full size
National Astronomical Observatory of Japan
Comet Hale-Bopp continues to surprise scientists
News story originally written on March 20, 1997
Hale-Bopp continues to offer new surprises as two astronomers report of their
study of the comet. Using the Hubble Space Telescope and the International
Ultraviolet Explorer, the astronomers did a year-long study on Hale-Bopp to find
that their are distinctly different ices in the comet's nucleus, the nucleus is
huge, and the nucleus is extremely active.
The comet's nucleus seems to be erupting upon itself. Astronomers witnessed the
comet spew out dust in intermittent bursts. "The surface of Hale-Bopp's nucleus
must be an incredibly dynamic place, with 'vents' being turned on and off as new
patches of icy material are rotated into sunlight for the first time,"
said Harold Weaver, an astrophysicist from John Hopkins University.
The nucleus' structure itself is more complex than astronomers had thought.
Astonomers theorized that trace gases were contained within water ice.
According to Hubble Space Telescope observations, however, Hale-Bopp's nucleus
has trace components contained within their own ice structure, with water ice
remaining separate and uniform.
In addition, the nucleus is tremendously large. Astronomers have estimated
Hale-Bopp's nucleus to be 19-25 miles (30-40 kilometers) in diameter. Comets
are thought to have a nucleus of about 3 miles (5 kilometers) on average.
These new findings are just the tip of the iceberg (or comet, so to speak), as
Hale-Bopp continues to bedazzles astronomers and amatuer skywatchers alike.
With the help of the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Ultraviolet
Explorer, astronomers will continue to solve the mysteries of this unique and
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, ranging from seismology
, rocks and minerals
, and Earth system science
You might also be interested in:
Hale-Bopp continues to offer new surprises as two astronomers report of their study of the comet. Using the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Ultraviolet Explorer, the astronomers did a year-long...more
Comet Hale-Bopp is expected to give a spectacular show to the world as it reaches peak brightness in the skies this month. According to an update from the European Space Observatory, Hale-Bopp is set...more
The construction of NASA's Lunar Prospector has been completed. This spacecraft will travel to the Moon in September 1997 to make the first complete compositional and gravity maps of the Moon. The Lunar...more
We all know that milk "does a body good." Who knew that plastic milk containers could save lives in an emergency? In an attempt to find the perfect lightweight metal insulation for spacecraft, NASA created...more
NASA and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) have released the report of the investigative board appointed to determine factors which resulted in the Feburary 25 tether break and loss of the Tethered Satellite...more
Scientists have recently discovered that thousands of Adelie Penguins thrive in patches of the chilly Southern Ocean near Antarctica's coastline. In these special areas of the ocean, called polynyas,...more
A new study has found that a mixing of two different types of magma is the key to the historic eruptions of Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, and that eruptions often happen in a relatively short...more