Comet Hyakutake with Saguaro Cactus


March 27, 1996

Photo by Rick Scott and Joe Orman.

From dark skies, Comet Hyakutake was a stunning spectacle, with a tail that stretched more than 50 degrees across the sky. This composition with a saguaro cactus was possible because on this night the comet appeared very close to the North Star, Polaris (the brightest star to the upper right of the comet's head). This allowed us to photograph the comet without using a star-tracker, and include the cactus in the foreground.

This photograph appeared on NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day site on May 1, 1996, and was on the cover of Robert Burnham's book Comet Hale-Bopp: Find and Enjoy the Great Comet.

Read the story behind this photo session.

Date: March 27, 1996
Time: 3:50am MST
Location: near Florence Junction, Arizona
Camera: Olympus OM-3 on fixed tripod
Film: Fuji Provia 1600 slide
Focal length: 40mm
Aperture: f/2
Exposure time: 2 minutes
Scanned by Rick Scott with Nikon Coolscan 2000

Publishers! A high-resolution version of this image is immediately available. For details click here.

Revised: February 14, 2012
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