Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

March 21, 1996

Near Comet Hyakutake's Nucleus
Credit: Olivier Hainaut (IoA, Hawaii) and Richard West (ESO), 3.5-m New Technology Telescope, European Southern Observatory

Explanation: This March 19th false-colour picture of Comet Hyakutake from one of the most sophisticated ground based telescopes captures the area surrounding the comet's nucleus. A comet's nucleus - not directly visible here - is a solid dirty iceball probably no more than 10 kilometres across. This image shows, for the first time, features of irregular brightness in the coma surrounding the nucleus. The beginning of the ion tale is visible as the bright feature emanating from the right, approaching about 1000 km from nucleus. At the distance of the comet, the whole field captured here is roughly the size of the Earth. If it's clear, Comet Hyakutake may be easily visible tonight!

Tomorrow's picture: Where to See Comet Hyakutake

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.