Hubble first shot a collapsing comet in real time

US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — The NASA and ESA Hubble Space Telescope recorded the collapse of C / 2019 Y4 (ATLAS). These are the most detailed images of the decay process of the comet’s nucleus to date. Pictures and information about this event are published on the NASA website.

Comet C / 2019 Y4 was discovered on December 29, 2019 by the ATLAS (Asteroid Terrain-impact Last Alert System) robotic astronomical survey system in Hawaii . Until mid-March, its luminosity grew, and then suddenly the comet began to fade.

Scientists have suggested that the icy core of a comet is crushed and decays. This version was confirmed by amateur astronomer Jose de Keyros, who photographed three separate fragments of it on April 11.

On April 20, the Hubble Space Telescope identified 30 debris moving in the tail of cometary dust. When another shot was received on April 23, there were already 25 fragments.

“Their appearance changes dramatically over the course of two days, so much so that it’s pretty hard to match the dots,” David Jewitt, professor of planetology and astronomy at the University of California at Los Angeles and one of two leaders, said in a NASA press release. of the teams that photographed the decay of the comet. – “I don’t know if this is due to the fact that individual parts flash and glow, reflecting sunlight, acting like flickering lights on a Christmas tree, or because different fragments appear on different days.”

Because fragmentation is fast and unpredictable, it’s hard for scientists to judge the reasons for the collapse of the C / 2019 Y4 (ATLAS). There is an assumption that the comet breaks into pieces due to the rupture of the core material under the action of evaporating gases.

Since the exit of gases from the bowels of the comet increases and this happens unevenly, the rotation speed of the nucleus increases, which leads to its fragmentation.
“This is really exciting, and because such events are very spectacular, and because they do not happen very often. Most fragments of comets are usually too dull to see them. Events of this magnitude happen once or twice a decade,” says the second leader Hubble Observation Teams Quanzhi Ye of the University of Maryland.

In any case, these are the first observations that allow us to trace in detail the dynamics of the decay of the comet’s nucleus, which is moving quite quickly. Scientists believe that the observed process may be one of the main mechanisms of death of comets, and further observations of C / 2019 Y4 (ATLAS) will help to understand it.

“Further analysis of the Hubble data may show whether this mechanism is responsible for the decay,” says Jwittz.

The decaying comet during observations was inside the orbit of Mars, at a distance of approximately 145 million kilometers from Earth. The closest comet, or rather, what remains of it, will approach the Earth on May 23. Then the cosmic body will be approximately 115 million kilometers from our planet, and in eight days it will pass only 37 million kilometers from the Sun.

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