Comet Hale-Bopp will become the most viewed comet in Human history. Presently, for denizens of the Earth's northern hemisphere, this bright comet is certainly a lovely and inspiring sight -- visible here crowning the sky above Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy on March 20. Based on orbital calculations, this comet's last passage through the inner Solar System was approximately 4,200 years ago. Principally because of changes caused by the gravitational influence of Jupiter, Hale-Bopp should pass this way again in a mere 2,380 years. Comets come from the outer reaches of the Solar System where they reside, frozen and preserved. Astronomers analyzing their structure and composition as comets swing near the Sun seek a glimpse of the conditions during the Solar System's formative years.
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NASA Official: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.
Based on Astronomy Picture Of the Day