Comet ATLAS disintegrates, NASA Hubble telescope watches to claim space fact
New Delhi : Comet ATLAS disintegrated into more than two dozen pieces and the phenomenon has been captured on the NASA's Hubble telescope. With the new video evidence, the space agency has reclaimed the space fact that breaking of comets is common.
Hubble telescope identified about 30 fragments of the comet on April 20 and another 25 on April 23. "Their appearance changes substantially between the two days, so much so that it's quite difficult to connect the dots. I don't know whether this is because the individual pieces are flashing on and off as they reflect sunlight, acting like twinkling lights on a Christmas tree, or because different fragments appear on different days," said David Jewitt, professor of planetary science and astronomy at UCLA, Los Angeles. Jewitt is also the leader of one of two teams that photographed ATLAS comet with Hubble.
"This is really exciting — both because such events are super cool to watch and because they do not happen very often. Most comets that fragment are too dim to see. Events at such scale only happen once or twice a decade," said the leader of a second Hubble observing team, Quanzhi Ye, of the University of Maryland, College Park.
The researchers stressed over the fact that phenomenon captured on the telescope is an evidence that such things in space are common.
"Further analysis of the Hubble data might be able to show whether or not this mechanism is responsible," said Jewitt. "Regardless, it's quite special to get a look with Hubble at this dying comet."
Comet ATLAS was first spotted by the researchers on December 29, 2019.