Greetings from the shores of the Minas Basin where the tide for the next few days will rise close to 15 metres. That’s just a little higher than average…it’s due to having just had a Full Moon.
Tuesday evening was clear. Down by the lighthouse, a few minutes walk from my house, I stood and watched the rising Full Moon spread its golden path across the incoming tidewater. In the opposite view, I caught my first glimpse of the star-like centre of Hale-Bopp, just short of 30 degrees above the WNW. The star, Capella, was a bit higher and brighter. I noticed that Orion’s stars are quickly being lost in the advancing glow of sunset. As the sky darkened, the brightness of the glowing tail soon made the comet the dominant object in the west, while the moon, full and round, ruled supreme in the east.
Around 9:15 pm I began the observations on which I based this evenings sketches. Using 10X50 binoculars and unaided eye, I could detect just short of 4 degrees of dust tail; the flood of light from the Full Moon behind me would not allow more. No gas tail was noticed. The first half of the tail was about vertical relative to the horizon, the remainder angled 10 to 15 degrees clockwise. Stars 54, 55 and 56 Persei formed a sky mark that the visible tail did not quite reach <JPEG 18K> (I left my sketches in the pencil colour format, sort of like a negative.) (inverted colours)
The southeast side (the leading side) of the comet is getting to be noticably brighter (back in February and March the trailing side was brighter). An off-set notch was still noticable after the first degree and a half of tail, just where the tail begins to angle over to the right.
The telescope view (255mm f4.5 reflector using 24mm,12mm and 9 mm eyepieces) revealed an interesting change from other nights. The 3 distinct arcs of former nights seem to have become part of something that is more snail-like in appearance. The bright inner arc was still much like expected, sweeping clockwise, but tonight I could see it encircling further around the bright inner core than ever before. Out of the darker NE side, it appeared to connect to what used to be at least two arcs on the bright SW side. They now appeared to be more or less merged into a single, broader, more diffused arc. The view also suggested a couple of narrow, curved rifts in the broad arch <18K JPEG> (inverted colours). I hope this wasn’t just fog on my lens.
This is the first time I have been able to see directly, structure that suggests that the material in the arcs (shells) extend continuously around the pseudonucleus. From observations and deductions made by others, I had been aware that this was the case.
Well there you have it, from here on the Bluff, in spite of the bright moonlight, Hale-Bopp provided yet another evening of fascinating and enjoyable observing.
Is everyone ready for what will be our last two, good weeks for enjoying this great comet?