Who knows whether the inhabitants of the Earth were surprised 5 thousand years ago by the amazing passage of a comet Atlas?
New research, based on data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope Posted in Astronomical Journal, appears to support this hypothesis. With a highly elongated oval orbit, C / 2019 Y4 (Atlas) It is a classification among non-periodic comets (characterized by the prefix C) to which it is attributed The orbital period is between 5 and 6 thousand years.
Atlas was first observed in December 2019, within the constellation of the Great Bear, by the system of the same name Atlas (Last Asteroid Impact Alert System), operated by the University of Hawaii. On its way to the Sun it became brighter due to the usual release of gas and dust, but after a few months, while it was closer to the Earth than to our star, it was crashed prematurely. At the time it was expected to be able to be observed with the naked eye, scientists were also able to study it by solar orbit who – which Surprisingly, he found himself on his heels and to define me Primitive Matter Levels.
One hypothesis that is gaining ground is that the ancestral body of Atlas reached a minimum distance from the Sun, and thus became visible, about 5 thousand years ago, and that this disintegration led to the emergence of guilty family. It was possible to identify one of these in c / 1844 p. 1, The The great culprit who shone in our sky in 1844. The relationship between the latter and the atlas was recently determined on the basis of the similarity of orbital principles by Mike Meyer, lover of astronomical studies and author of the identification of more than 40 comets.
«Atlas follows you same bi-orbital For the comet seen in 1844 – confirms the astronomer Quanzhi Ye, author of the new research — but remains a strange culprit nonetheless. and the First time It is a member of the family of long-term comets It disintegrates before approaching the sun. This remains a big question.”
Provides fragmentation control Clues to the guilty mother. “We hypothesize that the comet atlas originates from the ice-rich interior of an irregular kilometer-wide ancestor. Split during the previous perihelion. This suggests that comets up to a few kilometers in diameter may still have complex and irregular interiors ice protection by intense solar heating.
Atlas disintegrated in a few days, while another piece lasted weeks: «This tells us so One part of the heart was stronger than the other» Comments ye. But why did you break up so early? One of the researchers’ hypotheses is that the streak of ejected matter may have made the comet spin so fast that centrifugal forces tore it apart; An alternative explanation is that so-called supervolatile ice caused it to explode like fireworks. “However, we are beginning to understand these hierarchies and the evolution of comet segmentation – Ye said – Atlas’ behavior is interesting but It remains difficult to explain.”.
Unless the orbit is disturbed by the magnetism of other celestial bodies, the surviving brother of Comet Atlas will not be seen before the year 7000.
Opening photo credits: NASA, ISA, David Jewett (UCLA), Quanzi Yi (University of Dale Maryland)