The Hale-Bopp comet was discovered by two amateur astromonor in July of 1995. Dubbed the Great Comet of 1997, it is the most
viewed comet ever. Hale-Bopp is a very large comet and is one of the brightest comets ever observed and has set records for
sustained brightness. Hale-Bopp is almost exactly twice the size of Halley's Comet having a nucleus of twenty-five miles
and an estimated diameter of 40-50 miles. Hale-Bopp is also unique because it has three tails. Comets normally have two
tails, a dust tail and an ion tail. Hale-Bopp additional tail is made up of neutral sodium atoms. This tail produces yellow
tinted glow. Hale-Bopp has also had its share of controversy and was linked to the suicide deaths of thirty-nine members
of the Heavens Gate cult located in California. This cult believed that a spaceship was traveling along side Hale-Bopp on
its way to earth to pick them up. Hale-Bopp will not return to Earth until the year 4397.
Amateur comet hunter Yuji Hyakutake discovered his comet on January 30, 1996 using only a pair of binoculars. Comet Hyakutake
was the brightest comet to be observed since Comet West in 1976 and was visible to the naked eye. Scientists also discovered
some unique attributes of Comet Hyaktuke. Comet Hyakutake emitted x-rays and had large quantities of ethane and methane. Scientists
believe that these chemical indicate that Comet Hyakutake was formed differently than the traditional comet. Comet Hyaktuke
will not return to the inner solar system for 14,000 years. Unfortunately, Mr. Hyakutake died in 2002 of a heart attack at
the age of 51.
Comet Tempel 1
Comet Tempel was discovered by Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht in April 1867. The comet is approximately four miles wide with an
orbit of 5 and half years. Although not currently as well known as Halleys comet, this could change July 4th 2005, when NASA
Deep Impact mission comes to fruition with the launch of an 820-pound projectile into the comets surface. It is estimated
that the collision will be at speeds of over 23,000 miles an hour. The Deep Impact spacecraft will observe the collision
and will continue to send pictures back to Earth 24 hours after the collision. Scientists hope to learn more of the makeup
of the comets nucleus and surface. They also hope to learn how craters are formed and what takes place during impact.