A comet has been roasted and put to death near the Sun. Some surprising details have emerged, courtesy of the Hubble Space Telescope.
Astronomers observe comets to study their properties and trajectories to find out what they are made of and also whether they pose any threat to Earth. However, this time around, astronomers saw something really shocking! A comet approaching the Sun was just killed right in front of astronomers’ eyes, so to speak. These observations were truly unprecedented. The event will also help astronomers understand why comets orbiting close to the Sun disappear.
The disintegrating comet known as 323P/SOHO near the Sun was first discovered in 1999 by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), NASA’s European Space Agency probe that continuously observes the Sun. 323P/SOHO is known as one of those rare near-Sun comets that follow an elliptical orbit around the Sun. Scientists believe that many such comets exist, but only a couple of them have been observed. And this recent observation of a comet roasted near the Sun may explain why, reports the University of Hawaii News. Also read: NASA: Hubble Telescope Reveals Unknown Facts About This Largest Comet!
How Astronomers See Comets Breaking Near the Sun
The Subaru Telescope has been tracking the comet since December 2020, even though it is only moving a tiny point in space. This time, it seems to have come very close to the Sun. After its close pass, the Hubble Space Telescope picked it up, but it looked very different. The results showed a long tail of dust emanating from the comet. This visible change in the comet indicated its disintegration due to excessive heat coming from the Sun. The comet was found to change its color as well as spin rapidly, completing one revolution in just half an hour. Also read: Hubble Telescope Captures A Star 32 Times Massive Than The Sun, But Will Die First! See Breathtaking NASA Photos
“Intense radiation from the Sun caused parts of comets to break up due to thermal fracturing, similar to how ice cubes break when you pour a hot drink on them. This mass loss mechanism may help explain why near- What happens to the Sun’s population and why are there so few of them left,” the research team said in a statement.