HEAVENLY VAGABOND

A COMET OUT OF NOWHERE IS THE BRIGHTEST IN YEARS

SAY THE WORD KOHOUTEK, AND MOST astronomers wince. Back in 1973 there were predictions that the comet of that name might be the brightest of the century. It turned out to be a total dud. Halley's comet was just as heavily overhyped 12 years later; that time around, at least, history's most celebrated comet was dim and unimpressive.

But scientists aren't likely to be embarrassed by C/1996 B2, better known as Comet Hyakutake. By last week the recently discovered visitor from the edge of the solar system was already being spotted without telescopes or binoculars by stargazers from the Azores to...

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