Two images captured by Hubble on April 20 and April 23 reveal more details about the demise of the anticipated comet ATLAS, which began to disintegrate at the start of the month.
In both images, a number of fragments can be seen, as they remain surrounded by cometary dust. There are major differences between the image taken on April 20, and the one was taken on April 23 as the number of fragments decreased from 30 to 25. It may be possible that some fragments are only visible from specific angles, but there is no concrete proof at this point.
A team of researchers decided to photograph the comet as they believed that the images would offer more data about the factors which triggered the destruction of the comet.
The demise of the comet ATLAS
Despite the disappointment of some members of the scientific community, the team of researchers is fascinated by the results. One of the scientists who contributed to the project has stated that the event was quite fascinating since it comet disintegrations tend to be rare. The chance to observe the phenomenon as it happens in real-time is also low, and it is already thought that valuable information has been learned by witnessing the fate of comet ATLAS.
It is now known that comet fragmentation tends to appear more often it was previously thought, playing an important role in the destruction of the solid ice nuclei that can be found at their core. Since fragmentation occurs randomly and there is no way to anticipate it, researchers didn’t have a lot of information on the topic.
The nucleus of the comet ATLAS might have been as big as two American football fields, and the size of the smallest comet fragment is on par with that of a regular house. Further research will take place in the future as many facts about comets remain a mystery.