- Comet ATLAS 2020: Comet Y4 Breaking Up as It Approaches the Sun
by SEAN MARTIN, https://www.express.co.uk/
COMET ATLAS, the space rock which has piqued the interest of the astronomy community, has started to crumble as it approaches the Sun, experts have stated.
Comet ATLAS, also known as C/2019 Y4 but nicknamed ATLAS as it was discovered by the telescope array system of the same name, was first discovered on March 5, 2019, and stunned the astronomy community as it was heading directly towards the Sun. After more than a year’s worth of travelling, the comet has only just made its way past Mars, but astronomers have discovered that it is falling apart.
It had been hoped that the icy comet would hold out until it got close enough to the Sun that it would be as visible in the night sky as Venus, which looks like a bright star. However, the latest observations have revealed that it appears to be falling apart.
Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC said: “It’s possible that this is the beginning of the end. “The comet’s orbit is now being influenced by ‘non-gravitational’ forces. These forces are the result of gases lifting off the comet nucleus and causing the nucleus to move very slightly in the opposite direction–sort of like a jet engine.
“Most active comets experience this to some degree, but ATLAS’s non-gravitational forces have kicked in very abruptly and are quite strong. “This supports a narrative of a small nucleus being pushed very strongly by extreme outgassing, possibly along with fragmentation.” “Finally, let’s not forget that ATLAS is a fragment of a larger (unidentified) comet also related to the Great Comet of 1844. “Fragmenting is a family trait for these guys.”