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Hale-Bopp brings out a crowd

April 03, 1997

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Almost everyone who descended on the grounds at Renfrew Museum Wednesday night for the comet watch said they were there to see a little history in the making.

"I wanted to see it now because I won't get another chance," said Keith Bachtell, 12, of Waynesboro, who joined his friend, Brian Shade, 13, of Waynesboro, who brought his own telescope to view comet Hale-Bopp.

The comet watch, sponsored by the Adult Education Committee of Renfrew Institute For Cultural and Environmental Studies, attracted church youth groups, families and senior citizens from Franklin County, some of whom had never looked through a telescope before.

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"I wanted to see it through the telescope," said Dorothy Piper of Chambersburg, Pa. "The closer the better."

Others, like Harold "Red" Hoffman of Greencastle, Pa., and Frank and Clyde Bittner, both of Waynesboro, set up their 35mm cameras on tripods to try to capture the comet on film.

"We have lots of film and we're doing a lot of guessing," Frank Bittner said, who hopes his photos will pass down through generations of his family.

"You don't get to see three comets here in your lifetime," he added, remembering Haley's Comet and last year's comet Hyakutake.

Peering through binoculars, telescopes and cameras, several young teens gathered to see the comet because they're learning about it in school.

"I heard it's made of ice crystals. But if it's made out of ice crystals, and at the speed it's going, shouldn't it blow up?" asked Shade.

Members of the Tri-State Astronomers club and officials from the Washington County Planetarium in Hagerstown, Md. set up telescopes on the museum grounds and instructed the public on how to use them.

"This is an opportunity to educate people with the telescopes. It gives everyone a good chance to look at something special," said Rod Martin, planetarium resource teacher at the Washington County Board of Education.

Comet Hale-Bopp has been getting a lot of attention because it's one of the few that can be seen clearly by the naked eye, said Jim Taylor, president of Tri-State Astronomers.

"This one is a huge one. It's such an unusual thing in the sky and people wonder what it is and want to see it," Taylor said.

A comet watch will be held this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Eastern Elementary School in Hagerstown, Md. and on Friday and Saturday, April 11 and 12, at Antietam Battlefield.

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