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Remembering A Comet-Discoverer

Jan 14, 2018
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Amateur astronomer Thomas Bopp died earlier this month at the age of 68. He never achieved the fame of Britain's Edmond Halley, whose namesake comet comes to visit the Earth about every 75 years or so. But Bob did pretty well for an asphalt factory manager from Glendale, Ariz. In July of 1995, looking through a friend's telescope in the desert, he spotted what he described as a little, fuzzy glow. At first, he thought it might be a distant galaxy, but what Mr. Bopp discovered that night was a previously unknown comet. Coincidentally, at almost the exact same moment, another stargazer named Alan Hale also saw it. The two would go on to share naming rights to what became known as the Hale-Bopp comet. Two years after the men discovered the comet, it came within 122 million miles of Earth. With a tail a million miles long, Hale-Bopp was easy to spot in the night sky, and the two men briefly became famous. Mr. Bopp said about his discovery, I just hope it inspires people to go out and look at the stars. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.