Comet Breaks Apart Near The Sun, Debris As Wide As The Continental US

The Hubble Space Telescope has provided very sharp images of a comet's death. These images were used by astronomers to observe Comet 332P or 332P/Ikeya-Murakami. It is slowly breaking apart while approaching the sun. The distance is around 240 million km.

Comet 332P's Doomed Fate

According to Earthsky, the comet's images were taken in three days. The study was published in the issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters. David Jewitt of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) revealed that the Hubble's fantastic resolution was vital.

They were able to see even the tiniest bit of the comet. Thus, accurate measurements were obtained. He admitted that a comet's disintegration is a natural phenomenon. However, they don't know much about the process. He added that it usually happens fast.

Though this time, they had much time to spare. Apparently, Comet 332P is breaking apart about 100 million km from the Earth. The distance puts it slight beyond the orbit of Mars. It is around 4.5 billion years old.

According to CSMonitor, the comet was about the length of five football fields. Its size began to deteriorate, though.

Comet's Debris

The images showed 25 building-size blocks made of ice and dust. It drifts away from the comet. The debris is along a 3,000 mile-long trail. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has released a statement about the study. NASA said that the debris is larger than the width of the continental US.

Astronomers further observed that they brighten and dim. It is caused by ice patches on their surfaces. They rotate into and out of sunlight. The relics are also 4 percent out of the parent comet. They are usually 65 to 200 feet wide. They move apart at few miles per hour.

These observations allow them to understand the unstable behavior of comets. They are able to comprehend the whole process better. This is what they were lacking before.

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