Comet C/1995 O1 Hale-Bopp: twenty years later (1997-2017)

Exactly twenty years ago, in 1997, the legendary comet C/1995 O1 Hale-Bopp was putting its incredible show in the sky. A countless number of people started looking at the sky thanks to this comet.

Comet C/1995 O1 Hale-Bopp: 31 Mar. 1997

Comet C/1995 O1 Hale-Bopp: 31 Mar. 1997

For me it was like a Big Bang in my observing activities. If I can trace back the seeds of the Virtual Telescope, 1997 was when everything really started. To share my images of this comet, I created my first website, one of the first ever in Italy about astronomy, still available (though no longer updates, see here).

Above is one image I captured on 31 Mar. 1997 with a 180-f/2.8 Zeiss lens, showing the typical shape of comet Hale-Bopp. It reached the perihelion exactly 20 years ago, on 1 April 1997.

I also documented very well the dust shells visible close the nucleus, from where I inferred its rotational period, in excellent agreement with the one found with large, professional scopes.

Comet C/1995 O1 Hale-Bopp: dust waves around its nucleus (31 Mar. 1997)

Comet C/1995 O1 Hale-Bopp: dust waves around its nucleus (31 Mar. 1997)

I used all my observations of comet Hale-Bopp for a work I presented at the University of Rome “La Sapienza”, where I was a student in astrophysics at that time.

I will write extensively about that passage in the next days, but I wanted to share these thoughts on the 20 birthday of Hale-Bopp perihelion.

Looking forward to another epic comet like that!

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