Astra's Observation Reports on Hyakutake

Hyakutake - - C/1996 B2


April 20, 1996
Jackson, GA

(Sorry it took me so long to post this!) My last view of the Comet Hyakutake came during the Peach State Star Gaze in Georgia. It wasn't much of a view, either I'm afraid. A while after sunset, B2 was spotted setting on the Northwestern Horizon. I watched it with my 11 x 80 binoculars until some clouds swallowed it up. It was probably going down below the trees in just a bit, anyway. I was just able to spot it with my naked eye before those clouds came in.

As a meaningful observation, this small report has little value, but it was the last time I saw this comet, the best one I have ever observed. The night was soon over, but the day will live on in my memory as the last time I saw Hyakutake. I hoped I would see B2 again, but weather made it impossible. Farewell, Hyakutake, I'm going to look for post perihelion observations on the internet!

April 14, 1996

Went out to Spencer, Ohio for dark skies and I saw the comet as it was setting between the clouds around 9:30 PM EDT. It was just leaving the constellation of Perseus. I saw a four degree tail, naked eye which looked good in 7 x 50 binoculars, a few quick views of the comet in a C11 gave some hint of structure in the tail. It was a long drive out for such limited views, but worth the trip! :^)

April 1, 1996

My mother and I observed the comet in the midst of the stars of the constellation Perseus. It was much fainter than either Alpha Per, a smudge I could barely detect naked eye with the bright moon over my shoulder.

My mother noticed that Venus was very bright and we observed the planet near the Pleiades. This is the second comet I observed with my mother, the last one being Halley. Maybe next year, we'll be looking at Hale-Bopp!!!

Closest Approach

From my location, the sky was mostly cloud covered and observations of the Comet were limited to quick views between lake-effect clouds. These days I curse the clear blue sky because as soon as that bright ball of heat goes away, the clouds take over for the night!

I was able to watch the comet as it passed close to Earth's north pole. [Whew, I'm glad it missed us!]

It moved through the constellation Bootes, passing between the stars Beta and Gamma Bootis, it passed the Big Dipper in Ursa Major, making a bee-line for Polaris. I saw it twirl around the north pole, so that it appeared to change direction in the sky! Once the comet passed, it seemed to lose magnitude! I am limited to a small area of the sky and magnitude estimates seemed impossible.

The reports that follow don't mention that morning when I was observing in the driveway and ice water was falling on me from the houses and the trees. The temperature was close to freezing! The wind would howl & I could hear and feel the large ice drops.

March 24, 1996 Comet Observations

At 8 PM, I attended CAA's astronomy program in Brecksville, Ohio. I was able to view the comet from this site in the city. The comet covered about one degree of the sky and the tail was easily traced in 7 x 50 binoculars. The field had three inches of snow on top of 2 inches of ice and the sky was partly cloudy. I was able to observe the comet with a variety of instruments. The telescopes showed that the coma had developed a jet and the binoculars showed about 5 degree tail. After the program, I traveled to a "dark sky" site which I consider moderately dark.

Spencer, Ohio

When I first arrived at the site, I was afraid to take my eyes off B2 because the sky was threatening to cloud us out so I didn't try to get out my scope for the first half hour. I used my friend's 8" f/7 telescope and my binoculars until I decided to chance taking the time away from observing. I set up my 5" f/5 telescope and I was glad to see that the sky stayed quite open for us, though there were clouds all around. The telescope showed the same jet coming off the nucleus that I saw in the larger telescopes & I was quite pleased. This kind of telescope is perfect for comets, I used 25 x and never tried other lenses because it was so much better to use the binoculars or just look up. I was so surprised when I saw that I could detect the tail stretch all the way to Alpha Com, just above the star Epsilon Vir that guides me through the Virgo Cluster.

On 6:30 UT (Mar 24.27) The comet displayed a 15 degree tail with the naked eye! The Comet spent this evening passing through "the kite" of Bootes, north of Izar and moving past the two upper stars heading northward. Although it is very hard for me to be sure, I think B2 was as bright as Arcturus. After reading all the wonderful observations on the web and the Astrolist, I was dying to see the comet like this. It was only my 6th observing session because the sky has just not co-operated! At last I am happy because I can truly say Hyakutake was a comet for my lifetime!!!

March 23.23 Observation from Lakewood, Ohio - city:

After 5 days of constant rain, snow, sleet and clouds - the sky at last cleared long enough to view the most spectacular comet of my observing experience!

At 5:30 UT I was able to see the comet near the star Epsilon Bootis, called Izar. Although the comet was not well defined in the murky sky, it covered at least a half a degree with a hint of that maganificent tail.

The sky was not very clear and there were occassional clouds and instances where I could not see it at all. Motion was easy to detect, I went into the house and made a quick sketch of the comet between two small stars, equally distant from both, I went right back outside & found the comet had already changed position with regard to them, about 1.5 minutes later. At 40x and 25x on a 5" f/5 telescope, the view was enhanced, but sky conditions and city light pollution didn't allow me to see much detail.

Periodically, I went out to watch the comet's motion. It danced around Izar, eventually passing it, at some point the star must have been obscured somewhat by the comet, but I, unfortunately, was not able to see it.

Hyakutake Observation from Spencer, Ohio 41 N, 82 deg W, Mar 16.27

I spent a lot of time looking at Hyakutake using my own telescope - a 6" f/9.6 at 70 power. Using Paul Leopold's 10" f/6, the high power view of the night was obtained using a Meade 8.8mm eyepiece. The comet displayed a pronounced core, very stellar. It was hard to define the comet's edges, but it seemed have a hugh fan shape overall. It appeared to fit into easily into an eyepiece with a 1 degree field of view.

My first impression: Coma is very large and seems to have stellar core. The extent of the coma is hard to determine. 10" revealed a small star near the nucleus (point source). Binoculars showed a bright blob with a fan-shaped "tail". In between 6th magnitude stars in was much brighter than these 6 mag stars, very beautiful and striking. The naked eye view of this comet is screaming! Brighter than any comet I've seen and I am praying that I haven't had the last view of this puppy!

In order to estimate its magnitude, I removed my glasses. I feel it was a very simple matter to compare the magnitude of the comet with the field stars. It seemed to be as bright as 109 Vir which is 3.7 Mag!!! [Hey, I'm impressed!] The time of observation was 1:30 EST or 20:30 UT Mar 15. Although it was cold ~ 18 F, I was able to observe the comet with various instruments, which was especially exciting because I was tracking it's movement all week across the field of Libra. It was so clear earlier in the week when the Moon was larger!

Observed comet with 6" f/8 at low power, 8" Schmidt Cassegrain as well as a 8" f/8 Newtonian. The view through these telescopes was simliar, each revealing a stellar core and a basic fan shape.

Beam back to Observing!

Beam back to Astra's Comet Page!

Beam me back, Astra!