Astronomers discover comet’s hourglass-shaped dust trail

(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers from Finland and Canada have discovered an unusually shaped dust trail from Comet 17P/Holmes.

It looks like an hourglass. The particles that formed the trail were released as a result of the most powerful cometary outbursts documented.

This event took place in October 2007. A model with increased accuracy of calculations helped to consider the unusual shape.

The description of this trail was published in one of the oldest and leading world scientific publications on astronomy and astrophysics Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Astronomers carried out real observations of the comet using telescopes in Australia and the USA. The first stage of observations began in February 2013 and continued in 2014-2015. The second stage lasted for a year from September 2020.

With the help of observations, the authors of the article for the first time established that the set of orbits of comet particles ejected by the flare has the shape of an hourglass.

On opposite sides there are areas of convergence of orbits along which particles move (such areas are called nodes).

One, the north node, is located at the comet’s flash point, the other, the south node, is located on the other side of the Sun.

The smallest particles have the largest orbits, so they arrive at the nodes last, particles of medium and large size arrive at the nodes earlier.

Scientists will continue to study comet 17P/Holmes to determine the reasons for the periodic increase in its brightness, to determine the strength of secondary and seasonal factors (for example, non-gravitational and irregular pressure of sunlight) on particles, as well as the possibility of observations in the infrared wavelength range.

In addition, plans for further research include simulating the first outburst of a comet, which was observed in 1892, and its consequences.

When the comet was discovered

Comet 17P was discovered during an outburst on November 6, 1892 by the English astronomer Edwin Holmes.

Another powerful outbreak occurred on October 23-24, 2007 and lasted about three hours. The ejection of particles that followed the flare turned out to be the largest astronomical observation ever recorded.

Due to the multiple increase in the size of the surface that reflects sunlight, the brightness of the comet has increased by one million times. The comet for a while became the most noticeable object for earthlings in the celestial sphere.


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