Hubble Image Shows How The Comet ATLAS Crumbled To Pieces
Even though the forecasts predicted that the Comet ATLAS could be seen with a naked eye and would brighten up the night sky, it crumbled to pieces. When the comet was first found out in December 2019, astronomers thought it would be one of the brightest comets that would pass away the Earth.
Ye Quanzhi, an astronomer at the Maryland University, stated that he had been observing the break-up of the Comet ATLAS since early April. It brightened until mid-March, and after that, the comet started dimming.
On the 20th of April, he took a photo of the comet`s fragments and shared the photo on Twitter. He added that they were able to observe mini-comets with NASA`s Hubble Space Telescope.
Also, Quanzhi expressed his hope that these min-comets will help astronomers to understand what caused the break-up of the Comet ATLAS.
The distance between the comet`s fragments generally helps astronomers to understand space events. Former observation of the comet noticed four fragments of the Comet ATLAS.
However, based on the photos Ye took with the Hubble, two of these fragments have broken down again, showing four bright spots on the right. Two bright spots on the left may indicate older fragments that have broken down.
The break-up of the icy comet ATLAS was the first that happened before the astronomers` view. However, according to Ye, the break-up of the comet ATLAS happened under special conditions, which made the observations even more exciting. Namely, the Comet ATLAS broke up when it was bright and close to the Earth.
The observation of comet fragmentation is unpredictable and rare. This makes the observation difficult for astronomers to explain what caused the break-up.
However, after the observation of ATLAS astronomers hope that comets would break-up more commonly. By studying through Hubble data, they are hoping that they would be able to find out why comets disintegrate.