The world's community of comet astronomers was saddened to learn of the death of Japanese amateur astronomer Yuji Hyakutake on Wednesday, April 10, 2002, at the age of 51. He was the discoverer of two comets (C/1995 Y1 and C/1996 B2); the second of these passed 0.109 AU (10.1 million miles, or 16.3 million km) from Earth in March 1996, in the process becoming one of the most spectacular comets of the 20th Century (magnitude 0, with a tail at least 70 degrees long).


The photo at right was taken by Alan Hale on March 27, 1996 (from the Hale-Bopp discovery site in Cloudcroft, New Mexico). At that time Comet Hyakutake was passing over the Earth's north pole; Polaris is the moderately bright star above and slightly to the right of the comet's head.
Press reports indicate that Yuji Hyakutake was attracted to astronomy when he was in high school as a result of the bright comet Ikeya-Seki, discovered by fellow Japanese astronomer Kaoru Ikeya. Perhaps it is only fitting that another of Ikeya's comet discoveries is currently making an appearance in our nighttime skies.


JPL's Comet Hyakutake home page


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