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NASA's Hubble Observes the Farthest Active Inbound Comet Yet Seen

Bringing some of the mysteries of the universe a little closer to home.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:56 pm

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has photographed the farthest active inbound comet ever seen, at a whopping distance of 1.5 billion miles from the Sun (beyond Saturn's orbit). Slightly warmed by the remote Sun, it has already begun to develop an 80,000-mile-wide fuzzy cloud of dust, called a coma, enveloping a tiny, solid nucleus of frozen gas and dust. These observations represent the earliest signs of activity ever seen from a comet entering the solar system's planetary zone for the first time.

The comet, called C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS) or "K2", has been travelling for millions of years from its home in the frigid outer reaches of the solar system, where the temperature is about minus 440 degrees Fahrenheit. The comet's orbit indicates that it came from the Oort Cloud, a spherical region almost a light-year in diameter and thought to contain hundreds of billions of comets. Comets are the icy leftovers from the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago and therefore pristine in icy composition.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:58 pm

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Credits: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA)

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows a fuzzy cloud of dust, called a coma, surrounding the comet C/2017 K2 PANSTARRS (K2), the farthest active comet ever observed entering the solar system. The image was taken in June 2017 by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:59 pm

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Credits: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)

his illustration shows the orbit of comet C/2017 K2 PANSTARRS (K2) on its maiden voyage into the solar system. The Hubble Space Telescope observed K2 when it was 1.5 billion miles from the Sun, halfway between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus. The farthest object from the Sun depicted here is the dwarf planet Pluto, which resides in the Kuiper Belt, a vast rim of primordial debris encircling our solar system.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Wed Oct 04, 2017 9:00 pm



NASA's Hubble Space Telescope observed the farthest-discovered active inbound comet, Comet K2. K2 came from the distant Oort Cloud and is visiting our inner solar system for the first (and only) time. Since we're seeing it so far away, past the orbit of Saturn, K2 is still in its early phase of activity, likely making it the most primitive comet anyone has ever seen.

 
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