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.

May 1, 1996

Comet Hyakutake and a Cactus
Credit: Rick Scott and Joe Orman, near Florence Junction, Arizona, Courtesy Night of the Comet

Explanation: Comet Hyakutake is shown photographed the night of March 27 in Arizona, USA, with a cactus in the foreground. Polaris, the north star, is the bright star seen just to the upper right of the comet's head. Today Comet Hyakutake reaches its closest approach to the Sun. Comet Hyakutake is now at its intrinsic brightest, but because of its distance from the Earth, it will appear less bright to us than it did during its closest approach to the Earth in late March. In fact, due to the comet's angular proximity to the Sun, it will difficult to see at all from the Earth! Comet Hyakutake will reach less than one quarter of the Earth-Sun distance - inside the orbit of Mercury. Comet Hyakutake will not venture near the Sun again for another about 15,000 years.

Tomorrow's picture: The Tails of 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.