Welcome to the Astronomy Gallery! Here, you can look at amateur astrophotography, submit an image yourself, read the comments of others on various aspects of astronomy or contribute your own thoughts. If you have not already given us feedback about our sites, please write us with your comments about this page.
Since The Online Planetarium Show is a new page, our Gallery is clearly just beginning to grow. Already, though, we have a spectacular image of Comet Hyakutake and several pictures from Hubble for comparison. This page will become an on-going, expanding project, so continue to visit the Gallery.
NEW ON JANUARY 5, 2000: Read more new comments on light pollution.
Comet Hyakutake, known officially as Comet C/1996 B2, was discovered by -- and of course named for -- Yuji Hyakutake of Japan on January 30, 1996. After quick observations, astronomers calculated that the comet's orbit and figured that it would be closest to Earth on March 25, when it would pass within 9.3 million miles.
The comet was visible from March on through April and in fact was the brightest comet since Comet West passed by 20 years ago. It was indeed the most visible, spectacular celestial wonder in a long time, and "backyard astronomers" turned out in droves to observe and photograph it. If you are interested in more information, consult the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's gigantic Comet Hyakutake Home Page (JPL), which includes an archive of "over 1000 images."
George Fleenor of Bradenton, Florida used a 35mm lens and Fugi 1600 film to capture Comet Hyakutake in this 10 minute exposure on March 25, 1996 at 2 a.m.
This photograph has been cropped and resampled so that it retains as much of the detail of the original as possible but so that it is accessible for those with slower modems. If you are interested in seeing a more detailed image, you can also view a larger size of this picture (400 X 650, 201KB).
Submit Your Own. If you have any astrophotographs of your own that you would like to share with us, please feel free to submit it to the Gallery.
The Hubble Space Telescope, which doesn't fall asleep late at night and which is above Earth's pesky, obscuring atmosphere, was also hard at work during Comet Hyakutake's stay. These two photographs were taken by the HST at 8:30 P.M. on March 25, when the comet passed closest to Earth -- at a distance of roughly 9.3 million miles away. Both were taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera through red filters and both are excellent close-up shots of Hyakutake's icy nucleus.
Photo, left. Wide view of the nucleus of Comet Hyakutake. When the comet crosses into sunlight, its icy nucleus throws off dust that is especially visible on the side of the comet in the sun. Eventually, this dust is hit by sunlight and turned around, moving towards the tail-side part of the nucleus. In the upper left-hand corner, notice that there are three small fragments that broke from the nucleus and formed their own tails. A larger size of this image is also available. Courtesy Space Telescope Science Institute, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Hal Weaver/Applied Research Corp., HST Comet Hyakutake Observing Team, NASA.
Photo,right. Close-up of Hyakutake's nucleus. The very bright spot is probably not the nucleus, which is in that same central region, but instead the tip of the strongest jet, where dust spews out from the nucleus. Because the nucleus is surrounded by an atmosphere, astronomers can not accurately estimate its size. Hopefully the size will be revealed through further analysis. A larger size of this image is also available. Courtesy Space Telescope Science Institute, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Hal Weaver/Applied Research Corp., HST Comet Hyakutake Observing Team, NASA.
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At this stage, we do not have any user input to share with you. If you have had experience as a star-gazer or if you have questions about how to start this new hobby, we would love to hear from you. When we begin to receive suggestions, this section will bring you hints and tips from other amateur astronomers about the best ways to observe the sky's many wonders. As our page grows, we will collect interesting, informative comments about this subject and post them here to encourage and aid new backyard astronomers in their venture.
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We have included an in-depth page so that you can learn more about light pollution. We would be interested in hearing from you if you are concerned about the problem, if you have ever experienced the damaging effects of light pollution or if you have suggestions for avoiding and minimizing the damage. We encourage you to comment on this important issue.
Joseph Williams recently visited The Online Planetarium Show and allowed us to share with you his interesting comments about how when the power went out in an earthquake he realized for the first time what a problem light pollution is.
"I lived in southern California and I thought that there were a lot of stars," he writes. "I have moved to a rural area of northern California. Never in my life have I seen so many stars. [Light pollution] is something that goes unnoticed until you see it for yourself. The street lights in my old city created an orange glow in the night sky that would prevent you from seeing the stars."
Remembering back to 1994, he writes: "But on January 17, the day of the Northridge Earthquake, when the power went out you could see all the stars just as you do where I live now."
Randy Barton (Starz@worldnet.att.net), an International Dark-Sky Association member, visited TOPS last fall and had this to say.
"Astronomy as a hobby has provided me with inspiration, knowledge and endless delight. So of course I have been aware of the problem of light pollution for many years and have watched the problem grow, quite literally, from year to year. Unfortunately, we seem to live in a time when most people are terrified of the dark and have little interest in the night sky. I am a member of the IDA and have written to my town's borad of planning and zoning twice concerning the waste of light pollution. I was quite careful not to put an emphasis on astromomy but concentrated on the issue of energy conservation. Not one reply! I think that while some areas of the country have made progress in the battle against light pollution (New Mexico in particular), the population and politicians in most areas have nointerest in this issue. It also seems that what little interest in energy conservation there was in the U.S. in the 1970's has vanished. All in all the fight against light pollution will be a very long and difficult battle in most areas of the U.S. with a very uncertain outcome."
Mr. Baron also contributed several statistics from the November 1999 issue of Astronomy Magazine. He wrote: "A team of Japanese and American astronomers came up with some interesting numbers at the July IAU [International Astronomical Union] sponsored meeting on light pollution in Vienna. They estimated that Boston, Mass. wastes 1.5 million dollars due to inefficient lighting, Kansas City, Mo. wastes 7.15 million and NYC wastes 13.6 million."
"Really incredible when you think about it!" he wrote.
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This section is an unusual one because we are interested in hearing from you about what you would do if you could observe any of the objects discussed in the show using the Hubble Space Telescope. What would it be? Right now, we have not received any comments about what you would do, so we would certainly appreciate hearing from you. Be creative! Think up an interesting, original proposal. Have fun!
Write your own "proposal"...
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