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Astronomy club offers view of brilliant comet

The St. Petersburg Astronomy Club is offering an early glimpse of what may be an impressive visitor from the far reaches of the solar system from 8:30 to midnight tonight.

Club members will set up large telescopes in the parking lot of the Science Center of Pinellas County, 7701 22nd Ave. N, and people are welcome to drop by for a look.

The visitor is Comet Hale-Bopp, discovered a year ago by amateur astronomers Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp.

Astronomers think it will be impressive, perhaps the brightest comet of the century. This fall, Hale-Bopp will be visible to the naked eye, said Dan Bricker of the astronomy club. For now, city dwellers will need a telescope to find it in the southeast sky, elevated about 45 degrees above the horizon, just north of Jupiter.

Scientists calculate Hale-Bopp was last seen in Earth's skies about 4,000 years ago.