A&M International Sets Public Viewings for Hale-Bopp Comet

Texas A&M International University will host four Public Viewings of the Hale-Bopp Comet at the East Parking Lot of the University's main campus, 5201 University Boulevard on March 7, 19, 31, and April 3.

Two twilight viewings, from 4:00 a.m. - 6:00 a.m. are scheduled for Friday, March 7 and Friday, March 19. Evening viewings from 8:00 - 11:00 p.m. are scheduled for Monday, March 31 and Thursday, April 3.

Admission is free and members of the community, young and old, who wish to get a spectacular glimpse of the recently discovered comet are invited to attend any or all of the viewings.

A high-powered telescope and high-quality binoculars will be set up at each viewing so visitors may get a close view of the comet and other astronomical objects which are visible at this time of the year, including the planets Jupiter and Saturn.

Dr. Michael Roth, Assistant Professor of Physics at A&M International, will provide commentary during the viewings and answer visitor questions. Persons who attend should expect a spectacular sight if the weather is not cloudy, said Roth.

"The Hale-Bopp Comet is a spectacular sight because it is big and bright. It is about 25 miles in diameter, which is four times larger than Halley's Comet, and is expected to be as bright as the brightest stars by late March when it passes Earth at a distance of 123 million miles," said Roth.

A comet's brightness is generally determined by the amount of material that spews off as it hurdles through space. That material consists of dust, water vapor and other substances that remain solid in the frigid reaches of the outer solar system, but turns to gas as the comet is heated during close approaches to the sun.

Roth noted that the comet viewing is an excellent learning opportunity for children and encourages parents to bring youngsters to the astronomical event.

"Children will be fascinated by looking through the telescope and seeing the comet up close. It is a wonderful opportunity and we hope many in the community will attend the viewings," said Roth.

Several hundred people attended the lunar eclipse viewing held at the University in September.

Persons who wish to stay for the entire duration of the two-to-three hour viewings may bring portable seating and non-alcoholic refreshments to make their astronomical experience more comfortable.

For more information on the Public Viewing of the Hale-Bopp Comet, please contact Dr. Roth at 326-2588 or the University's Department of Natural Science at 326-2445. University office hours are 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Monday - Friday.

Dr. Roth may also be contacted by email at mwroth@tamiu.edu.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu