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Large comet visible to naked eye in March (Released: 2/22/96)

News tip for journalists

by David Pesci, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- It will appear larger than the moon in the night sky and pass perilously close to earth.

The comet Hyakutake is already visible with binoculars but will be at its best viewing on the nights of March 25-26.

Named for the amateur Japanese astronomer Yuji Hyakutake, who discovered it just last month, the comet will achieve first magnitude on best viewing nights, looking like a large, dull, fuzzy ball of light to the naked eye. Its path will take it within 9.3 million miles of the earth, a near miss in galactic terms. The comet's tail may reach 10 degrees in length and is forecast to be quite spectacular.

Cynthia Peterson, professor of physics at the University of Connecticut, is charting Hyakutake's path and will be glad to talk with reporters about the comet. Reporters interested in contacting her should call David Pesci, Office of University Communications, (860) 486-3530.

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