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Hale-Bopp Comet appears in Texas skies

March 26, 1997

By Jeff Talbert

Lariat Reporter

The college years are full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences that students will remember for years to come. But University students this year can have one experience no other class has had, nor will any other class have until the year 4397, assuming the University is still around.

Students can view Comet Hale-Bopp, discovered by Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp, in the evenings between 7:15 and 8:30 p.m. by looking to the northwest near the horizon.

Comet Hale-Bopp is one of the brightest comets ever discovered.

Physics professor Dr. Bill Adams said most comets are discovered three to six months before being detectable by the naked eye. But he said this comet was discovered a year and a half before.

'There have been other comets that showed promise like that, but they didn't pan out,' Adams said.

Adams said he and his wife were in Cloudcroft, N.M., on their summer vacation a week after Alan Hale discovered the comet from there. He said most of the town was very excited.

The town is not the only group who got excited. Scientists immediately began to study the comet and have been doing so ever since.

According to Associated Press reports, the most recent study began Monday.

Scientists launched the first of a series of rockets carrying a telescope to detect the gases neon and argon in the comet. The rockets will only reach 240 miles above the earth's surface, so the scientist will only have about five minutes to study the comet.

Adams said he gives a lecture about famous comets in his astronomy class, and students are more interested in it this year because of Comet Hale-Bopp.

'Many students came back with reports of seeing it over spring break,' he said. 'One student saw it in the air while flying back.'

Anthony Carl, a Nashville senior, said he saw the comet on the way back to Waco after his spring break trip.

'I thought it was pretty cool because it was the first time I'd seen one,' he said.

The comet will be visible for another six weeks.

Adams said it is an exciting time to look at a naked-eye comet.

He said, 'To see one as bright as Comet Hale-Bopp--that's once-in-a-lifetime.'

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