Comet Hyakutake is a "dirty snowball" which is in a 10,000-yr orbit around the sun. It passed near the Earth on March 25, 1996, when it was only 9.3 million miles away. It will reach perihelion (closest approach to the sun) on May 1. When a comet is in the neighborhood of the sun (or even as close as the Earth is), the "snow" sublimates and the "dirt" gets thrown out, creating the tail which is the signature of a comet. Comet Hyakutake is now visible with the naked eye, even in the city. Look to the northwest somewhere along a line from Polaris (the north star) to Venus which is high in the west in the early evening.
Here is a sampling of some of the pictures of Comet Hyakutake. These were copied from an extensive set of over 750 pictures that may be found at the JPL Web site for archived images.
75 K jpg - Bob Hatfield, Santa Fe, NM
74 K jpg - David Lane, St. Croix, Nova Scotia
115 K jpg - Jerry Lodriguss, Charsworth, NJ
61 K gif - Brian Halbrook, Michigan
46 K jpg - David Hanon, Ringgold, GA
30 K jpg - David Hanon, Ringgold, GA
83 K jpg - Johnny Horne, Stedman, NC
58 K jpg - Herman Mikuz, Crni Vrh Observatory, Slovenia
28 K jpg - John Farrell, Los Alamos, NM (Apr. 3)
146 K jpg - N.J. Martin, By Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland, U.K.
Stereo pair. These images were obtained the night March 25/26, the right hand image at 03.30 UT, the left at 04.00. The right hand image exposure was 10 minutes and the left 6 minutes exposure on Fuji Sensia 400ASA transparency film using a Canon AE1 camera fitted with a standard F1.8 50 mm lens guided by hand mounted on an 8" reflector. The photographs were taken at Bonnyton House. The rapid angular movement of the comet, gives a big enough difference in the viewing angle to get a striking 3D picture of the comet. The images are best viewed by the crossed eye method. Cross the eyes so as to see three (or four) images of the comet. This can be made easier by focussing on a finger closer than the picture. Gently move the head or picture around until you see a single comet in the central image. You should see a 3D comet standing out from the star background. It shows the three dimensional arrangements of the bright strands in the tail and how they start off at the centre of a diffuse cylinder of material near the coma.
This picture was taken on March 25, 1996, at a location west of Davenport, Iowa, using a tripod-mounted camera with an 85 mm lens and ASA 400 color film. It is rendered in black and white here to bring out the features of the tail. Skies were clear but the first-quarter moon was low in the west. The temperature was about 10 degrees Fahrenheit with no wind. An hour earlier there was light snow was falling. This picture was a 4 minute exposure taken at 11:55 pm CST when the comet was close to the star Kochab of the cup of the Little Dipper. The distance from the comet to the Earth was 9.88 million miles (0.106 AU).
This picture was taken at 1:59 am CST on March 14 using the Celestron C14 telescope in Augustana College's campus observatory and an SBIG ST-6 CCD camera. The tail is in the 7 o'clock position, pointing west. The star adjacent to the comet is magnitude 9.1. This was a 30 second exposure. The size of the photo is 11' x 7'. The distance from the comet to the Earth was 35 million miles (0.379 AU).