The comet became visible to the naked eye by the middle of , and steadily brightened as the rest of the year progressed. By early it had become a spectacular object in the nighttime sky and starting to receive attention from around the world. It was closest to the earth on March 22, , at 1. Around that time it was as bright as the brightest stars in the sky, and became one of the brightest comets to appear during the 20th Century. Its high brightness, long duration of visibility, and convenient location in the evening sky after dusk made Hale-Bopp the most widely-observed comet in history. In addition to being followed so eagerly by the general public, Hale-Bopp was also an immensely rewarding object scientifically. Study of the comet has already revealed incredible amounts of new information about the physical and chemial processes going on within comets and about the formation of the planets in our solar system, including Earth.
Comet Hale-Bopp’s Ancient Spectacle
Today in science: Comet Hale-Bopp | Human World | EarthSky
It is difficult to predict the maximum brightness of new comets with any degree of certainty, but Hale—Bopp met or exceeded most predictions when it passed perihelion on April 1, Accordingly, Hale—Bopp was dubbed the Great Comet of Hale had spent many hundreds of hours searching for comets without success, and was tracking known comets from his driveway in New Mexico when he chanced upon Hale—Bopp just after midnight. The comet had an apparent magnitude of Once he had established that the object was moving relative to the background stars, he emailed the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams , the clearing house for astronomical discoveries.
Remembering Comet Hale-Bopp's Unlikely Discovery
Astrophotographer John Goldsmith chronicles his travels during Comet Hale-Bopp's famous apparition 20 years ago. Comet Hale-Bopp makes a superb sight above the Pyramids of Giza. Click this or any image for larger versions. John Goldsmith.
Astrophotography by Jerry Lodriguss. It was the most widely observed comet of the 20th century and was visible to the unaided eye for 18 months, a record, and nearly twice as long as the Great Comet of , the previous record holder for naked-eye visibility. It was so bright that it could be seen even from large cities with light-pollution.