A bright comet will appear in our skies about once every 20 years on the average. We have been privileged to have recently witnessed two bright comets in consecutive years: Comet Hyakutake in 1996 and Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997. As an added bonus, the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacts into Jupiter in 1994 was literally a once in a millennium event that we won't see happen again for a long, long time.
A large comet with a diameter of about 40 km (25 miles), Comet Hale-Bopp reached a magnitude of about -1 in the spring of 1997, the brightest comet since Comet West in 1976.
In the spring of 1996, this small comet made a close flyby of Earth (0.10 AU) with a magnitude of 0. Comet Hyakutake also sported a 100 degree tail, the longest tail ever observed!
Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9
Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 broke into 21 fragments and put on a spectacular show in the summer of 1994 when each fragment crashed into Jupiter.
Ron Baalke, STARDUST Webmaster, email@example.com
Last Updated Wednesday, 07-Jun-2000 13:50:33 PDT