Stardust Memories

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Science  28 Mar 1997:
Vol. 275, Issue 5308, pp. 1895-1896
DOI: 10.1126/science.275.5308.1895

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Comet Hale-Bopp is an unusually large and bright comet that will reach perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) in April 1997. In his Perspective, Cruikshank discusses observational results described in seven research reports in this issue of Science (see pages 1900, 1904, 1907, 1909, 1913, 1915, and 1918). Images from the Hubble Space Telescope indicate a large cometary nucleus, and measurements from the Infrared Satellite Observatory craft reveal the composition of the dust grains being discharged by Hale-Bopp. Radio telescope measurements have tracked the release of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and sulfur in various molecular species. Photometry shows that gas production is 20 to 100 times greater than any previously observed comet. Such observations may help unravel the puzzle of comet formation and the origins of organic matter in the universe.