“Hubble” saw the disintegration of the nucleus of comet ATLAS in real-time

Space telescope “Hubble” was first seen in the dynamics of the process of disintegration of the nucleus of comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS). The amount of debris that collapsed the core, is estimated at 25-30 pieces, all of them shrouded in clouds of cometary dust scattering the sunlight, reported on the website of the Observatory.

Until mid-March of this year, the brightness of long-period comets C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS), opened in late December 2019, quickly growing, it was expected that in may it will be visible to the naked eye and will be one of the most spectacular comets in the last two decades. However, the comet suddenly began to fade, what could be explained by the fragmented nucleus, or beginning the process of its destruction. The decay of the nucleus was confirmed 11 April 2020 Amateur astronomer Jose de Karosa (Jose de Queiroz) and then various ground-based observatoriesthat have been able to examine the wreckage.

20 and 23 April 2020, when the comet ATLAS was at a distance of approximately 145 million kilometres from Earth, it was observed by space telescope “Hubble”, which received the most detailed for today image its nucleus, which can be seen 30 and 25 fragments of the core, respectively. All the debris is shrouded in clouds of cometary dust scattering sunlight. This is the first such observations allow us to trace the dynamics of the decay of the nucleus, which is fast enough.

Astronomers want to understand whether the number of observed fragments and their location relative to each other so that some of the fragments change their brightness and become visible, or there are more fragments. Unclear and the reasons why the comet disintegrated. One hypothesis is that the core could greatly increase the speed of rotation around its axis due to uneven emission of volatile substances from the surface. In any case, now we see the process, which can be one of the main mechanisms of destruction of comet nuclei, and further observations of C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) can help you to understand it.

May 23, 2020, the comet will fly at a distance of 0.78 astronomical units from Earth, may 31, will pass its perihelion. To see the wreckage of its core is possible by means of large telescopes with a diameter of 15 centimeters, but look for C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) you need in the Giraffe constellation in the polar part of the sky.

Earlier we talked about how the Hubble has confirmed the breach interstellar comet Borisov after its close approach to the Sun, and why it differs significantly in composition from comets in the Solar system.

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