Hail Hale-Bopp, Spring king of comets

"I expect the comet will perform superbly... I honestly don't see how it can fail us."

--Brian G. Marsden, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, in Sky & Telescope (March 1997)

Will Comet Hale-Bopp live up to expectations?

Join astronomers and physicists at the UBC Observatory during the first week in April to find out.

The UBC Dept. of Physics and Astronomy will open its campus observatory for free public viewing of comet Hale-Bopp during the nights of April 4-6.

Experts will be on hand to answer questions about Hale-Bopp, the importance of comet studies and the effects of comet impacts on Earth in the past.

Hale-Bopp's closest position to Earth is estimated at 200 million kilometres on March 22.

Hale-Bopp, also known as C/1995 O1 among learned comet watchers, was discovered on July 22, 1995, when it was more than a billion kilometres from the sun (that's seven times further from the sun than the Earth).

Experts believe Hale-Bopp is the largest cometary intruder to swing through the inner solar system since 1577. Estimates are that the icy core of the comet must be at least 40 kilometres in diameter for it to be detected at such a great distance.

Jaymie Matthews, with the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, says from mid-March and throughout April, the comet and its dusty tail should be easily visible in the evenings over the northwest horizon.

"Skygazers everywhere in B.C. will be able to follow the comet all night at times, since it will never set below the horizon," says Matthews.

Matthews and his colleagues plan to use computer links to display the latest electronic images and scientific findings about Hale-Bopp from observatories around the world.

Observatory doors open at 7 p.m. and remain open until at least 11 p.m.

Visitors may enter through the south door of the Geophysics and Astronomy Building located at 2219 Main Mall.

Call 822-2267 for more information.