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  Image of Comet Hyakutake taken by Shigemi Numazawa from Nigata, Japan on March 20, 1996.

On January 30, 1996, Yuji Hyakutake in Japan discovered a new comet using his massive 25x150 binoculars. The comet reached a peak brightness of about 0 magnitude, the brightest since Comet West in 1976 (Comet Hale-Bopp would reach magnitude -1 the following year). The comet made a particularly close flyby of the Earth on March 25, 1996 at a distance of 0.10 AU, and reached its perihelion (closest distance to the Sun) on May 1, 1996 at a distance of 0.23 AU.


Image of Comet Hyakutake taken from Col Druscie Observatory in Italy on March 25, 1996.

Radar observations of the comet by Steve Ostro from JPL on March 24-25, 1996 showed the comet nucleus to be only from 1 to 3 km. Though the comet nucleus was small, its brightness was due to its close passage by the Earth. Another side effect of the close flyby was that viewers from Earth were able to view the comet broadside, and the comet exhibited a tail up to 100 degrees long! This is one of the longest comet tails ever observed in history.




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