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TMR-funded astronomers study Hale-Bopp comet

A group of European astronomers are studying the Hale-Bopp comet, the brightest comet visible from earth for some 400 years, thanks to funding from the Community's Training and Mobility of Researchers (TMR) programme.

The researchers have gained access to the observatories of...
A group of European astronomers are studying the Hale-Bopp comet, the brightest comet visible from earth for some 400 years, thanks to funding from the Community's Training and Mobility of Researchers (TMR) programme.

The researchers have gained access to the observatories of the Instituto de Astrofisico de Canarias (IAC), the European Northern Hemisphere Observatory, through funding from the access to large-scale facilities section of the TMR programme. Astronomers have already made important discoveries using these telescopes, including the first confirmed observation of a black hole.

The rare appearance of the Hale-Bopp comet has allowed astronomers to make major advances in the understanding of comets. TMR-funded astronomers have detected a number of new chemicals on Hale-Bopp, including alcohols and some constituents of living organisms. In addition, unusual rings of cyanogen gas emitted by Hale-Bopp's nucleus have been detected at the very centre of the comet.

A project carried out during 1996 at the European Northern Hemisphere Observatory, with TMR funding, has contributed significantly to knowledge of brown dwarfs. These phenomena, with masses of between 40 and 80 times that of Jupiter, were found in the Pleiades cluster. The results of this project were presented at a seminar on brown dwarfs and extra-solar planets, held in Tenerife on 17 March 1997.

Source: European Commission, DG XII

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