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Old 20-01-2008, 11:43 AM
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Location: Hawaii
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abellhunter's Astro bio: Part #5

Part #5 A Tail of Three Comets

By July of 1994 i had my two observatories
up and running for 5 years. The Hubble
space telescope was up and running too.
Every scope on the planet big and
small was ready. Yes, the most awesome
spectacle any astronomer could ever
imagine: Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

It was discovered just 3 mountain ridges
away from my Anza observatory, by the team
working on Palomar mountain. Even today
i can clearly recall the first evening
of the first impact. It hit the back
side just around the limb and took
only a few minutes to come into
view by Jupiter's rotation.

It was a large well defined black and
gray circular blotch, that had a very
deep black semi circle under it, like
a shock wave. From July 16th until
July 21st 1994 i sat with my 4" f15
Unitron, a C-11, and the 17 1/2 inch
dob and just marveled!

i made well over 100 sketches of the
impacts and their changes into August.
i was totally amazed as was the entire
astronomical community!

In September 2005, 10 years after SL-9
hit Jupiter i had the great honor to
meet David Levy. We met under the
southern skies, on the shores of
Lake Titicaca, at 12,500 feet in
the Bolivian Andes. There i presented
him copies of over 100 detailed
sketches that i made of his comet.
Along with all of my detailed notes
and descriptions.Funny thing, when
i handed the logbook and sketches
to him he had on a shirt that said:
"My Damm Comet Crashed!".

Then in Japan on January 30, 1996,
a amateur using six inch binoculars
was out to check on a comet he had
found in '95. As Yuji sweep the area
he found yet another comet, that would
later be known as the Great Comet of
1996, Comet Hyakutake 1996B2.
By March-April of '96 this was a huge
monster! It's thin tail as seen from
my observatory in Anza was at times
an honest 50 degrees long! The nucleus
and coma had details that i had never
seen in any comet before. The jets,
the hoods, the streamers off the head
were mind blowing. The sheer size of
the head was two or three times the
size of a full moon. Just flat out
jaw dropping!

As i sat there with this new monster
comet and both it's naked eye view
and the image i was seeing in the
17 1/2 dob at high power. i could
not help but think how truly awesome
this thing was. And how in such
a very very short time it had come
down on us. i mean, from Jan. 30th
when it was 1st spotted until March
only weeks later when it was LARGE,
until early/mid April when it came
so close to the earth it made me

Remember this is on the heels of
Comet Shoemaker Levy 9's extraordinary
crash into Jupiter! my mind was
totally reeling! i could easily
take that image that i was looking
at in the big scope and transpose
that on the sky of a comet coming
straight in at us. i could imagine
the fear that humanity would be
under. But as an amateur astronomer,
sitting in his own observatory, i
thought to myself what a spectacular
way for an "Observer" to go!
What else could you do i thought,
this has been such a life long
passion, sit back and realize
that this is the best way to go.
While everyone is in terror just
partake in the most awesome sight

On July 1995 two Americans found the
next Great Comet. Known as The Great
Comet of 1997, Hale-Bopp. By March
of 1997 everyone knew we had yet
another naked eye comet to feast
on. From March through May the
Great Comet was both a morning
and evening object.

Its tail was bright and fan shaped
with both red blue & green color to
it. As with Hyakutake, i took many
piggy back photos on the C-11
with 100-200mm telephoto lenses.
And some great tripod shots with
a 50mm set up with mountain ridges
and pine trees in the foreground.
Again i can not help but think of
how great my timing was to be in
just the right place at the right
time! How could i ever have known
that when i took that huge step
in moving away from the city,
that these events would come
to pass?

i just wanted to leave the rat race
and be with nature under the Milky Way.
The way that things turned out with a
comfortable observatory under great
dark skies was just too much!

All i can say is, Every Day's a
B O N U S ~ D A Y !

Lance aka "abellhunter"
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