Sir, I would like to make a somewhat "academic" correction to the article (March 18th) concerning the next appearance of Comet Hale Bopp. it was stated on the front page, and in the article, that the comet's next visit to our part of the Solar System will be 4,200 years hence. Actually Hale Bopp will return to our skies in and around 4400 AD i.e. about 2,200 years from now, not that you or I will see it!
The last time Hale Bopp dropped in was about 2200 BC, "although there are no known records of it being sighted. Because of its strange orbit, almost perpendicular to the path of the planets in our Solar System, and the gravitational influence of Jupiter, it is predicted that it will eventually plunge into the Sun in about half a million years hence - astronomically speaking, in the twinkling of an eye.
Hale Bopp appears to be living up to its promise of being the "comet of the century". Its dust tail is quite spectacular and is visible even with the interference of city lights - although obviously one should go to a dark site to observe it at its best. I would urge everyone who can, to get out and see it. - Yours, etc,
School of Cosmic Physics, Dublin Institute for Advanced