I am now in my mid 20s and I remember when I was 6-10 years old, there was a comet or asteroid that flew really close to earth. I remember being able to see the object very clearly as if it were the moon. I also live in the west coast of the United States. What was this object?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "I remember being able to see the object very clearly as if it were the moon." - I'm certain no asteroid approach has ever been that large (in modern history, anyway). So I'm sorry, but I'm pretty sure you mis-remembered. But that's OK; you were only six :) Comet Hale-Bopp might be a possible though, as HDE's answer; it was very impressive from a dark sky. $\endgroup$
    – Andy
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ I live in Southern California and I saw it. It was huge. $\endgroup$
    – user11600
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 14:00

1 Answer 1


Was it Comet Hale-Bopp? It was discovered in 1995, but made a very close approach in 1997, earning it the nickname "The Great Comet of 1997".

Wikipedia states

As it passed perihelion on April 1, 1997 the comet developed into a spectacular sight. It shone brighter than any star in the sky except Sirius, and its dust tail stretched 40–45 degrees across the sky. The comet was visible well before the sky got fully dark each night, and while many great comets are very close to the Sun as they pass perihelion, comet Hale–Bopp was visible all night to northern hemisphere observers.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia user LoopZilla under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Austria license.

My second guess is Comet Hyakutake, which made an extremely close approach to Earth in 1996 - becoming "The Great Comet of 1996".

  • $\begingroup$ I did some googling and this comet came up too but to be honest I am not sure. I remember it looked like an asteroid though. If a comet were close would you be able to see its tail? Not like in the picture. $\endgroup$
    – NuWin
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 2:53
  • $\begingroup$ @NuWin Do you mean in an approach close to Earth? $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 2:58
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. Just imagine your looking at the moon on a clear day. This object was that visible and big. $\endgroup$
    – NuWin
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 3:00
  • $\begingroup$ It could have been Hale-Bopp. Another good candidate is Hyakutake, which you might also have heard of. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 3:06
  • $\begingroup$ It is possible. So in conclusion there was no nearby asteroid in the 90s? $\endgroup$
    – NuWin
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 3:09

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