I work as a mathematics teacher in a small vocational college in the United Kingdom. I did a bit of astrophysics as part of my Physics degree, and I did a course in basic orbital mechanics, and a course in numerical analysis.
Needing to earn a living, I forgot all about things celestial (apart from the odd New Scientist article) until the recent interest in the comet Hale-Bopp. I found an ephemeris for Hale Bopp on the 'net (at the British Astronomical Association page), which listed the right acension and declination of this particular dirty snowball for each day. The BAA use B1950 coordinates as this fits in with their magnitude reference star charts.
I then dug out my old copy of Practical astronomy with your pocket calculator and worked out the altitude and azimuth of the comet, and went out and bought a pair of 7 by 35 binoculars. I got up at 05:00 one February morning and found the little smudge with the aid of a magnetic compass. I really must learn the constellatons.
I am old enough to
Last Modified 4th May 1997