Close Encounter. This is a painting of comet Hale-Bopp as it might have appeared had it passed within a mere 1 million kilometers of Earth. The comet would then be more than 160 times closer than it actually was in early 1997. At that distance it would appear about 11 magnitudes brighter than the magnitude -1 peak that it reached and would be about as bright as the full moon. The present orbit of Hale-Bopp only allows it to come within about 0.1 AU (15 million kilometers) of Earth, but the possibility that a comet the size and brightness of Hale-Bopp passing this close to Earth is a real one and might happen about once in 30,000 years. The original is a 12 by 15 inch acrylic on illustration board, completed May 19, 1997.

Last update: May 23, 1997