Hubble discovered a comet on record-a far distance from the Sun

© NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA)Comet C/2017 K2, receding from the Sun at record distancesHubble discovered a comet on record-a far distance from the Sun© NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA)

. Orbital Observatory «Hubble» has received the first photos of the comet from the distant outskirts of the Solar system, approaching the Sun for the first time in the entire history of its existence, the website of the space telescope.

«Comet K2 is now so far from the Sun that its gas tail could not be the product of the evaporation of ice from its surface. We assume that it arose as a result of evaporation of the frozen gases, which are present only in those comets, which I had never climbed in the Solar system. Why she is so special and important for us,» said David Jewett (David Jewitt) University of California Los Angeles (USA).

Solar system, in addition to the eight «real» planets, Pluto and a few dozen dwarf planets, inhabited by countless asteroids and comets are small rocky and icy celestial bodies. Most of the known asteroids «live» in the inner Solar system the Main asteroid belt between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars, and comets in the so-called Oort cloud on its outskirts.

This «cloud» consisting of the comets and other icy bodies, located at a distance of 150 — 1.5 thousand astronomical units, the average distance between the Earth and the Sun, our star. Scientists believe it is a kind of landfill «building materials» are ejected from the Solar system during its formation, and are actively studying its inhabitants, hoping to solve the mystery of the birth of the Earth and other planets.

Comet C/K2 2017, as noted by Jewett, lives on the outskirts of this cloud is the most distant point of its orbit is situated at a fantastic distance of a trillion miles from Earth, about 7200 astronomical units. Scientists believe that several million years ago, K2 began its first journey toward the Sun, and now it is at a distance of 3.6 billion miles from the sun.

The first hints of its existence were opened in may of 2017 by another telescope, Pan-STARRS-1, the automated «hunting asteroids», and scientists had to use the power of Hubble in order to obtain the first pictures of such distant object.

If you find it, Jewett and his colleagues studied the archives of photographs of that part of the sky where it is, and found out that the comet began to show activity already four years ago, just before the scientists did not notice it because of its dullness and large distance to the Ground.

As the Hubble and Pan-STARRS-1 was able to find it? The fact that this comet has two unusual features. Its orbit is inclined to the plane of the Solar system is about 80 degrees, and she has bright dust tail with a length of about 128 thousand kilometers, despite the fact that she is now between the orbits of Neptune and Uranus.

As shown by the pictures and the measurements of Hubble, this tail has an unusual chemical composition – it does not consist of water vapor, as gas shell of other comets, but oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. All these substances turn into ice in the cold Oort cloud, and evaporate after the comet first enters the warmer outskirts of the Solar system.

«Billions of years ago, these substances were present in all comets, however, they gradually evaporated from the surface of those celestial bodies, which periodically closer to the Sun and live in the vicinity of Jupiter. So I think that K2 is the most primitive comet that we have ever failed to open,» continues Jewett.

Journey C/2017 K2 is not over – the comet will approach the Sun for another five years in December 2022, it will reach the orbit of Mars and will begin to move in the opposite direction. This time, concludes Jewett, will be a Golden era for planetary scientists since they will be the first real opportunity to examine the composition of «pure» primordial matter of the Solar system, watching the tail of this comet.


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