Welcome Aboard our Comet Rendezvous Cruise,
Astronomers and the general public alike have been looking forward to the coming of Hale-Bopp ever since its discovery in July 1995. Why all the excitement? Because it is very rare for a comet so far away from the sun to be so bright.
Our Hale-Bopp Comet Rendezvous Cruise coincides with some of the best viewing of Comet Hale-Bopp. The decks of the Stella Solaris and the clear skies at sea will give us a stunning observing platform to view this infrequent visitor from the outer reaches of our solar system. The maneuverability of a ship at sea gives us the advantage: we can take our viewing to the best skies possible.
Hale-Bopp will make its closest approach to Earth (122 million miles) on March 22, 1997.The days leading up to and following this close approach may see the comet brighten to spectacular brilliancy - although, with comets, it is difficult to accurately predict how bright they will actually get. If the comet behaves as predicted, it should continue to brighten as it nears perihelion (its closest approach to the sun) on April 1, 1997.
Comet Hale-Bopp was discovered simultaneously by two Arizona astronomers on the night of July 23, 1995 and bears their names. Alan Hale is a professional astronomer and active comet observer and Tom Bopp, an amateur astronomer.
Comets are generally described as "dirty snowballs." At their hearts are solid bodies composed of ices, dust and rock that can measure miles across. In the cold of space comets are unremarkable. But, as their orbits bring them to the inner solar system and the sun's warmth, the ices sublimate ("steam" or "boil away") from the nucleus of the comet, carrying with them dust and debris and creating the "coma" that surrounds and obscures the nucleus from our sight. The sublimation also creates the comet's characteristic tail, which can stream away to thousands - and millions - of miles from the heart of the comet itself.
The chances of seeing a "great" comet those about as bright as the brightest planets fall about once every 20 years. But city lights and pollution reduce our ability to actually see comets. Observers from the decks of the Stella Solaris will have dark skies and uncluttered horizons. This week we'll find out if Comet Hale-Bopp lives up to its expectations and becomes "the comet of the century" or just a great comet!
We welcome you aboard the Stella Solaris to share with us the excitement of an exquisite cruise, the wonder and emotion of all adventurers past who sailed the waters of the world, and the drama of unraveling some of the mysteries of a comet, one of those fascinating, temporal visitors to the skies of Earth.
Science at Sea Enrichment Lecture StaffHale-Bopp Comet Rendezvous Cruise
Tom Bopp, the co-discoverer of the Hale-Bopp comet, is an avid amateur astronomer. A former Youngstown (Ohio) State University student, he will bring Comet Hale-Bopp to life through the exciting story of its discovery.
Astronomer Bob Berman is well known to the 5 million readers of Discover magazine. His Night Watchman column has appeared each month since 1990. He is host of the weekly radio program Skywindow on National Public Radio.
Ted Pedas launched the concept of astronomy theme cruises more than two decades ago and is acknowledged as a pioneer in the specialty field of ocean-going science travel programs. He was a founding member of the International Planetarium Society, and has been a science writer for magazines and newspapers for more than 30 years.
A lifelong interest in science and astronomy and a career path as a journalist led cruise coordinator Sharon Shanks to the planetarium field, one she says combines the best of both worlds.
|Dr. Fred L. Whipple|
Dr. Whipple is one of the world's most respected authorities on comets. In 1950, Dr. Whipple theorized that comets are "dirty snow-balls" of ice, gas, dust and rock, the most widely accepted theory in use today.