Friday, March 6, 2009

Hale-Bopp: A Flashback

Back in March and April of 1997, Hale-Bopp was the comet that took our breath away. I wrote about it in Pinehaven, how I'd stand out in the cold night air to get a picture of it; how I went out in the middle of the night to have a first look; and how I watched it pass slowly to the west and at last disappear below our horizon.

Here, then, is one of the pictures I took on a night a dozen years ago. I wanted to get it posted on the blog, mostly for posterity. I keep misplacing it and if I file a copy here, it'll survive my fragile mind.
This picture was taken above the pines at the northwest corner of our property and was late in the apparition. I was especially taken by the two tails. Back in the days of film photography, the stars stand out especially vivid. I don't remember the exposure time but it was probably a minute or more.
A few days ago when I tried to find Comet Lulin, how sad it was that whatever I saw was questionable at best and probably no more than a common star (as though any star could be common). But comparing it to Hale-Bopp, it was a mere smudge at best. Hale-Bopp stood out against the sky! It could be seen without even looking at it, invariably out of place and spectacular in its majesty. How I'd like to see another of those while I still can.
I remember my grandfather telling me about Halley's Comet in 1910 (he was just 12) and how the tail stretched across the sky. Hale-Bopp may not have equalled Halley's, but it was spectacular in its own right and probably a good deal more colorful. But most importantly, I was there to watch it work its way across the night sky.
Halley's was my grandfather's memory; Hale-Bopp is mine.