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Comet Chasers Night on April 11

If you happen to be on the Los Angeles area on April 11, then try to
see this event with Alan Hale, Thomas Bopp (of Comet Hale-Bopp fame),
David Levy (of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 fame) and Don Yeomans.
I'm on the planning committee for this event.  Admission is free but
requires a ticket to get in.  We expect a big turnout, so if you want
to attend, get your tickets now.

Ron Baalke

PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011

Contact: Stephanie R. Zeluck

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                              March 31, 1997


     Astronomers  Dr. Alan Hale, Thomas Bopp, David Levy and Dr. 
Don Yeomans will participate in a Comet Hale-Bopp viewing event 
and panel discussion about comet exploration titled "Comet 
Chasers: On the Trail of a Comet,"  at the California Institute 
of Technology's Beckman Auditorium on Friday, April 11.

     Admission to the public event is free, but tickets are 
required to attend.  Tickets are available from the Caltech 
Ticket Office, 332 S. Michigan Avenue, Pasadena; by phone at  
(818)395-4652; via fax at (818)795-1378; or via the Internet at 
There is a limit of four tickets per request.  For those outside 
Southern California, the panel discussion will also be broadcast 
via Internet.

     The event will present an opportunity for the public to view 
Comet Hale-Bopp and Comet Wild-2 (pronounced "vilt two") through 
telescopes provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Astronomy 

     Following the comet viewing, an hour-long panel discussion 
introduced by JPL Director Dr. Edward Stone and moderated by Levy 
will take place in Caltech's Beckman Auditorium. Astronomers 
Hale, Bopp, Yeomans and Levy will comprise the panel, discussing 
comets Hale-Bopp and Wild-2, and NASA's future spacecraft 
designed to fly past the rare celestial visitors.

     Comet Hale-Bopp was discovered independently on July 22, 
1995, by astronomer Hale and amateur astronomer Bopp from outside 
their respective locations of Cloudcroft, NM, and Phoenix, AZ.  
At the time of its discovery, Comet Hale-Bopp was more than 929 
million kilometers (577 million miles) from Earth, appearing over 
1,000 times brighter than Comet Halley did at that same distance. 

      Recently, Comet Hale-Bopp has been visible in the northeast 
sky in the early morning before dawn, and in the northwest sky 
just after evening twilight. In the coming days, the comet will 
no longer be visible in the early morning hours. At the time of 
the "Comet Chasers" event, Hale-Bopp will appear quite bright and 
about 25 degrees up from the horizon in the northwest sky just 
after sunset. This will be the highest point at which the comet 
will appear, and it will set in the west after about two hours.

     Levy, the panel discussion's moderator, is an amateur 
astronomer who discovered Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in March 1993 
along with Dr. Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker using a 1.2-meter 
(48-inch) Schmidt telescope on Mount Palomar in California.  That 
comet went on to impact Jupiter in July 1994, providing the first 
Earth- and space-based observation opportunities for viewing a 
planetary collision by a comet. 

      "Comet Hale-Bopp is living up to its advanced billing" said 
Yeomans, supervisor of JPL's Solar Systems Dynamics Group.  "It's 
the brightest comet in 20 years, and can be easily seen by 
inexperienced observers.  The only comparable comet was Comet 
West seen in March 1976, which at its best was slightly brighter 
than Hale-Bopp is now, but  I'm hopeful that this comet will 
become as bright as Comet West.  It's rare that you get one 
that's so civilized --  showing up in the evening sky about an 
hour after sunset in the middle of prime time." 

     Comets, composed of ice and dust, are believed to be 
remnants of the birth of the solar system. Their primordial 
material may lend clues in learning more about the origin and 
evolution of the planets.  Originating in a region from beyond 
the orbit of Pluto, comets can have orbits taking several 
thousand years to complete.  Hale-Bopp last passed by Earth 4,200 
years ago, and is not expected to return for another 2,400 years.

     Panelists will discuss several ambitious NASA missions that 
will further study the nature of comets in order to learn more 
about the evolution of the solar system.  Stardust, scheduled for 
launch in 1999, will capture material thrown off by Comet Wild-2 
in 2004 and return those samples to Earth in 2006.  Deep Space 1, 
a mission under JPL's New Millennium program that is scheduled 
for launch in 1998, will fly by the asteroid McAuliffe and Comet 
West-Kohoutek-Ikemura in a demonstration of new spacecraft 

     Telescope viewing of Comet Hale-Bopp will be available from 
7:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the lawn west of Beckman Institute at the 
southeast corner of Lura Street at Wilson Avenue in Pasadena.  In 
the event of rain or thick cloud cover, telescopes will not be 
available.  The panel discussion will begin at  9 p.m. at 
Caltech's Beckman Auditorium, located on Michigan Avenue one 
block south of Del Mar Boulevard.  Doors to Beckman will open at 
8 p.m., and those attending the panel discussion must be seated 
by 8:45 p.m.

     "Comet Chasers: On the Trail of a Comet" is sponsored by 
JPL's Galileo and Stardust projects. JPL manages the Galileo 
mission for NASA's Office of Space Science.  Stardust is a 
partnership between JPL, the University of Washington  and 
Lockheed Martin Astronautics.

     A live simulcast of the panel discussion will be available 
over the Internet via CuSeeMe.  Information on how to connect 
will be available on the Comet Hale-Bopp home page at 
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/comet or http://galileo.ivv.nasa.gov/comet.  
Additional information on Comet Hale-Bopp is at 
http://encke.jpl.nasa.gov.  Information on the Stardust mission 
is at http://pdcsrva.jpl.nasa.gov/stardust/home.html.  
Information on the Galileo mission is at