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Comet Hyakutake in the Big Dipper in February 1996




The bright comet Hyakutake in the Big Dipper constellation at its perihelion in February 1996


Comet Hyakutake

Comet Hyakutake, the great comet of 1996, is shining in its full splendor in the Big Dipper constellation over Northern Germany. The comet was moving extremely fast and was only visible for about a week in February 1996. Because of the persistent bad weather during this time only a few people have been able to admire Hyakutake. Only the great endurance of the nightly odysseys across northern Germany in search of gaps in the fog and the fast setup of the astronomy star-tracking instruments made this ten-minute exposure image possible. Just ten minutes after this photo was taken, the fog came back and closed the view of the starry sky with the comet again.
The black and therefore invisible asteroids and the brightly shining comets are remnants of the planetary formation of the solar system around 4.5 billion years ago. The difference between them is that comets additionally have a layer of ice around their rocky core that looks like a dirty snowball. Exactly this material evaporates near the sun, which explains why the comets light up. Each time they pass around the sun they lose a lot of mass until they become a dark rocky asteroid.
Even long after the great bombardment during the Earth's formation, countless asteroids and comets remained in orbit. These cosmic bombs have crossed the Earth's orbit several times, often with fatal consequences for the creatures inheriting Earth at that time. At the end of the Cretaceous period, about 65 million years ago, such an asteroid impact abruptly put an end to the dinosaur era and triggered one of the greatest mass extinctions in the evolution of Earth's history. The majority of the comets, however, pass by the earth at a sufficient distance, so that one can enjoy their brilliant beauty.

February 1996
Pentax Me, Pentax 50mm, f/1.4, 10min, Purus astronomical mount, Kodak E6, ISO 400, tripod

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