NEW YORK (AP) _ The astronomer who co-discovered the Hale-Bopp Comet says so few career options are open to scientists that he wouldn't recommend young people pursue such careers.

``Unless there are some pretty drastic changes in the way our society approaches science and treats those of us who have devoted our lives to making some of our own contributions, there is no way that I can, with a clear conscience, encourage present-day students to pursue a career in science,'' Alan Hale said in a public e-mail transmitted on an Internet bulletin board.

In ``an open letter to scientists of my generation,'' the celebrated astronomer said he ``was inspired by the scientific discoveries and events taking place during my childhood to pursue a career in science only to find ... that the opportunities for us to have a career in science are ... abysmal.''

Hale is the director of the Southwest Institute for Space Research in Cloudcroft, N.M., which he formed in 1993.

A message left today on his answering machine was immediately returned.

The appeal was posted to the sci.astro.amateur newsgroup on March 21.

Hale said he was trying to use the media attention focused on him in light of the comet discovery to increase awareness of the problem.

The Hale-Bopp Comet, discovered by Hale and amateur astronomer Thomas Bopp in July 1995, can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere in the northwest corner of the sky, about 30 degrees above the horizon, in the evening and in the northeast sky before dawn.