Scientists find strangely shaped trail coming out of comet

Andrew Griffin
Friday 06 May 2022 15:55
Comments

A strangely shaped dust trail has been spotted coming out of a comet.

The dust trail was produced by one of the largest known outburst by a comet ever recorded, which was seen in 2007. The massive amount of particles ejected from the comet reflected so much sunlight that the brightness of the comet increased a million times, and it briefly became the brightest object in the solar system.

That was just the latest in a history of the comet known as 17P/Holmes, which was first spotted during an outburst in 1892 .

Now, scientists have plotted that history, finding that the particles were ejected in an strange hourglass shape.

The researchers’ model helps describe how the dust trails that resulted from the ejection would have evolved, allowing them to trace it all the way back to the original outburst.

It should also help calculate other cometary outburst or predict when meteor showers occur and how intense they might be.

Creating the model required taking into account a vast array of forces that act on a comet, such as radiation from the Sun, the gravitational disturbances caused by the Earth, Moon and other objects in the solar system, as well as how the dust particles would have interacted with the comet from which they emerged.

The model suggests that the comet will be visible even to amateur astronomers when it arrives later this year – and those observations should help inform the understanding of the comet and others like it.

“We predict that with our published data on the time of arrival and the corresponding coordinates of the dust trail of the comet 17P/Holmes in 2022 it will be visible even in the telescopes of amateur astronomers,” said Maria Gritsevich from the University of Helsinki, one of the authors on the paper.

“We expect that the results of their observations will provide additional information about the number and size of the particles and their geospatial distribution. This information will be useful for developing new models and understanding what happens to the comet and its trail.”

A paper describing the findings, ‘Evolution of the dust trail of comet 17P/Holmes’, is published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in