The hubble telescope of the POT has captured the moments when the comet C / 2019 Y4 or also known as ATLAS disintegrates, which allowed to identify approximately 30 fragments of the fragile Kite to the past April 20 and 25 pieces on April 23.
Some fragments had the house sizeHowever, this comet was discovered by the robotic astronomical prospecting system. ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) for the first time in December 2019 in Hawaii.
It began to light up rapidly in mid-March and some astronomers anticipated that it could be seen with the naked eye in May to become one of the most spectacular comets seen in the past two decades, however the comet began to darken very quickly, resulting in which led astronomers to speculate that the icy core could fragment.
The fragmentation of ATLAS was confirmed by the amateur astronomer Jose de Queiroz, who photographed about three pieces of the comet on April 11.
New observations from the Hubble Space Telescope reveal that the broken fragments are shrouded in a comet dust tail swept away by sunlight. The images provide additional evidence that fragmentation of comets is likely to be common and may even be the dominant mechanism by which solid, icy nuclei of comets die.
“Their appearance changes substantially between the two days, so much so that it is quite difficult to connect the dots”, said it’s a statement UCLA’s David Jewitt, leader of one of the two teams that observed the comet with Hubble. “I don’t know if this is because the individual pieces turn on and off when they reflect sunlight, act like flickering lights on a Christmas tree, or because different shards appear on different days”.
“This is really exciting, both because such events are super cool to watch and because they don’t happen very often. Most comets that have fragments are too faint to see. Events on such a scale only occur once or twice per decade”said the head of Hubble’s second observation team, Quanzhi Ye of the University of Maryland.
Astronomers remain unsure of the cause of the fragmentation
Furthermore it was suggested that the original core is shattered due to the degassing action of the sublimated ices.
“Further analysis of the Hubble data could show whether or not this mechanism is responsible”Jewitt said. “Anyway, it’s pretty special to take a look with Hubble at this dying kite”.
Before the breakup, the entire core may not have been more than the length of two soccer fields.
The disintegrating comet ATLAS is currently within the orbit of Mars, at a distance of approximately 145 million km from Earth when the latest Hubble observations were taken.
By: Redacción Digital El Heraldo de México