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Hale-Bopp Observations Suprise Astronomers

This is a series of Hubble Space Telescope observations of the region around the nucleus of Hale-Bopp, taken on eight different dates since September 1995. They chronicle changes in the evolution of the nucleus as it moves ever closer to, and is warmed by, the sun.

The first picture in the sequence, seen at upper left shows a strong dust outburst on the comet that occurred when it was beyond the orbit of Jupiter. Images in the Fall of 1996 show multiple jets that are presumably connected to the activation of multiple vents on the surface of the nucleus.

In these false color images, taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, the faintest regions are black, the brightest regions are white, and intermediate intensities are represented by different levels of red. All images are processed at the same spatial scale of 280 miles per pixel (470 kilometers), so the solid nucleus, no larger than 25 miles across, is far below Hubble's resolution.

Credit: Harold Weaver (Johns Hopkins University) and NASA

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