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Newspaper Archive of
Pahrump Mirror
Pahrump, Nevada
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February 13, 1997     Pahrump Mirror
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February 13, 1997
 

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D 4b-. Outdoors / Operation Game Thief: 1-800-992.3030 Operation Cal- Tip: 1-800-952-5400 Get ready for Hale to Bopp! by Ed Tomchin town don't work. Guaranteed this time. Hale-Bopp is no dud. It's not another Hyakutake and its easier to remember. This little baby is creating excitement world-wide. Telescope sales have gone into orbit. Viewing parties at prime viewing sites are planned throughout. The Internet caches half a dozen or more theories and conspiracies ranging from Hale-Bopp colliding with us, to being a hoax, to being a front for an alien invasion force. Stick Hale-Bopp into a search engine and watch the craziness that pops up. To be perfectly honest, Hale-Bopp is nothing more than a 25 mile wide ball of dirty ice which travels billions of miles on a never-ending, 3,000-year round-trip. Our solar system is at one end of its elliptical orbit. We don't know what's at the other end. We do know it's pushing a cloud of dust 1.5 million miles wide and is traveling faster thn 40,000 miles per hour as it falls toward our sun. It's this cloud of dust that makes seeing so easy and so spectacular. But Hale-Bopp is going to miss us. On its closest approach on March 22nd, it'll be 85 million miles away. Our sun is 93 million miles distant, so no problem. It's nowhere near as big. If ire a hoax, I want to know how they got that big bright light up in the sky. If it's an alien invasion, it's too small to be anything but a scout ship. Holy Time Zones, starman. Its a comet. What makes it's arrival spectacular is that in astronomi- cal terms it is very close to us. It was first discovered lurking in Sagit- tarius on July 22, 1995 by Alan Hale (New Mexico) and Tho- mas Bopp (Ari- zona), two ama- teur astronomers who spend their evenings scan- ning the skies. By August of 1996, Hale-Bopp could be seen in the northeast evening sky with' the' na- ked eye. " One evening last November, I was getting into my car and noticed a bright light blinking low in the dusky northeast sky. I later I discovered I had likely seen Hale- Bopp putting in an appearance through the evening haze. In December, the comet disappeared from view. It was too close to the sun to be seen in the day and below the horizon at night. Slipping back in early January, Hale- Brpp .was again caught lurking in the sky low on the northeastern horizon. Until May, it's path will move slowly across the northern sky from east to west, rising to about 30 degrees off the horizon. Between now and mid-March the comet closes with our sun and begins the torturous whip that will send it back to its other home. During this time Hale-Bopp is travelling its fastest, achieves its greatest brilliance and gives us its hottest performance. On March 31 Hale-Bopp achieves its closest point to the sun (perihelion), and will be under its greatest stress in the middle of the whip. From now till the end of May it will continue to shine brightly, dangling-just above the north- west evening skyline, as the centrifugal force from circling our sun sends it slinging back to its other home. If you're not used to looking for things in the night sky, all you'll need to know are a few simple tips to make the experience enjoyable and memorable. This may not seem necessary to say, but get away from city lights. Way away. Don't go south of town to look at something in the north sky because the town's glow will hide much of it. Comets are diffuse much like the Milky Way, which seem to glow because of its density and thickness. If the sky is alight from the town below, contrast can be so reduced you may miss seeing the comet altogether. Rural areas offer the best viewing for numerous reasons. You're away from traffic, city glows, haze, and other obstructions, the air is cleaner and quieter, and you need to get out once in a while anyway. The further you are from the mountains on the northern horizon, the better viewing angle you'll have. Your horizon must be relatively free of viewing obstruc- tions. If you sit on a mountain's south side, it'll block off all your northern viewing. If you can, elevate yourself as much as possible (i.e., a hilltop, north facing mountain- side, space station, etc.) Tall buildings in the middle of When you get to your viewing site, let your eyes adjust to the darkness. It takes about twenty minutes to get your night vision. Once there though, be careful. Night vision can be instantly lost by careless or inadvertent light, such as car lights, a flashlight, or a even a match. Bring a flashlight, but cover the end of it with a red filter. You'll be able to see with it (so as not to stumble, looking at maps and star charts, etc.) and it won't destroy your night vision. Pick a moonless night to look at Hale-Bopp. A comet easily becomes washed out in the bright glow of a full moon. Fortunately the moon's current schedule allows for some of the best viewing when the comet is at its brightest. Three periods of optimum sight-abiliy March let through March 14th, March 31 st through April 13th, and April 26th through May 10th. This is because at these times the moon will si,-,w no face (new moon) or very little face (waxing and waning) and its rising and setting times will not conflict with late evening and early night viewing. Its also helpful to know your compass directions (i.e, where is North?) If you don't have a compass, get a road map. North is always at the top of the map. The direction which you want to look for Hale-Bopp is North East to North in late March, then North to North West during April going into May. In February and March it gets pretty chilly in the desert at night, especially if the wind is blow- ing, which it has a habit of doing this time of year. Pick your viewing clothes carefully, layering as you dress. Dress like you're going to play in the snow. Long Johns or something simi- lar first, then cloth- ing such as loose- fitting jeansand a' thick shirt. Mittens, gloves or handwarmers are a must. Mittens are better for keeping your fingers warm. Make sure you've got a hat to keep your head warm, and a hot beverage to sip from a thermos. Don't build a campfire, it'll ruin your night vision. Viewing should not be a quick drive, one look, then back home again. You could do better watching the tube. Plan on staying for a while. The night sky is something special in the desert. On some moonless night you'll swear there are enough stars in the sky to cast a shadow, and shooting stars (meteors) are a common occurrence Literally lie back and relax. If you try viewing for any appreciable time from a standing position, your views be- come furtive and unmemorable because of the awkward neck position you have to hold. The higher the object your viewing, the more painful and frequent this will happen. So take along a folding pool chair or lie on the ground with a small pillow under your head. You'll see a lot more if you're relaxed and motionless. It might look a little odd, to be lying on a cot or the ground in the middle of the desert in the middle of the night, but the only ones who'll notice are others just like yourself. Take the time to become familiar with the location of a few major constellations and key stars. Learn how to find the Big Dipper and the North Star. This will help you locate Hall-Bopp in the sky. For beginner,obinoculars will give you better viewing than a telescope because they have a wider field of view and are easier to focus and hold steady. Telescopes are for closer viewing after you've located the comet, and take a bit more practice to use. Some people say they see stars better by looking out of the corner of their eye or looking directly at something close-by and seeing the comet in their peripheral vision. Bioscience tells us this is because our night vision is accomplished by the rods in the eye, which are grouped around the perimeter, rather than the cones, which are more centered and for day vision. So give it a try with your naked eye. But becareful. Once youspotsomethingin your vision's periphery, don't turn to look right at it or you'll lose it. Whatever works best for you. The sky right now is putting on a show that won't be back for another 3,000 years. It's performances are nightly through May. Don't miss it. PJrulnp,VailCyaq-Tktday,'Febrttar 13,997 33 727-4144 Bishop Veterinary Hospital Tonopah Clinic Dr. Lind will be in Tonopah /  February 19 u, r II Front downstairs office - 42 Belmont St. [I I Appointments/tnfo, Call 482-6453 after 5 p.m. II I Dr Linda will be in every other Wednesday II I 8 a.m.- 1 p.m.: Dogs, cats and other small animals, II I including spays, neutering, dentistry, minor surgery, etc. II ] , 1:30 p.m.- 3:30 p.m.: Horses, cows, etc. II NIGHT CLINIC '1 I I r'Tonopa h 5:30 p.m to 7:30 p.m.  Jl I Round Mountain: 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. l| I Same dates as Tonopah Clinic ii Patrol Services Guard Services Vacation Watch Immediate Communication and Observation During Child Yidtatkm- Personal 727 1609 Harrassmnt/Intimidation Latch Key Children Business Card Special 500 raised print cards Choice of Designs 3 colors ink, Only $14.95 Engraved Name Tags Clubs, Restaurant, any place be called by name. Stop that "Hey You" Prices Start at only $2.50 ca. Good Ole' Bob 727-6222 CtV#IL00S 5;/E/00V'//CES A full service surveying firm Boundary Surveys Subdivisions Topography ,, Improvement Location Suweys Full Construction Staking Surveys Plot & Grading Plans Personal and Small Business 25 years Experience (702) 727-9795