Researchers believe Comet Atlas is part of a larger comet, which appeared in the night sky about 5,000 years ago.
At the end of 2019, astronomers discovered an interesting comet. Comet C/2019 was Y4, also known as Atlas. Atlas’ brightness increased at an astonishing speed, making it look as if we were seeing a comet It can be seen with the naked eye (see box). Unfortunately, that hope emitted smoke. But now researchers are making up for it with an interesting discovery about Atlas.
Comet C/2019 Y4, also known as Atlas, was discovered late last year on December 28, 2019 by the Recent Earth Shock Alert System (ATLAS). The comet was heading toward our sun, which means that its brightness will continue to increase, as is the case with many other comets. However, the brightness of Comet Atlas suddenly increased, making it seem as if the comet would provide a wonderful sight; Astronomers had tentative hopes that the moment the comet got close to the sun, it would make a great show. This means that we can see an atlas shimmering in the night sky with the naked eye. Unfortunately, subsequent observations revealed that the comet It was already broken to pieces early. This means that the comet’s nucleus is weaker, causing it to disintegrate before it reaches perihelion.
Although the spectacle did not come in 2020, researchers now suspect that Comet Atlas provided a beautiful spectacle earlier in history. Astronomer Quanzhi Ye argues that the comet may be a severed piece of an ancient visitor that appeared in the night sky 5,000 years ago. At that time, a comet managed to reach a distance of 37 million km from the Sun. This is closer to the sun than Mercury. The innermost planet of our solar system. This ancient comet may have been a fascinating spectacle for civilizations across Eurasia and North Africa at the end of the Stone Age.
Why do researchers think Comet Atlas is part of this anonymous visitor? Because Atlas follows the same orbital path as a comet seen in 1844. This means that the two comets are probably brothers and share a common “mother”; The comet that exploded near the sun several centuries ago.
“Families of comets” are common, researchers say. A well-known example is the exhausted comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 (SL9), which was violently torn apart in 1994 by Jupiter’s gravity. But the “train” of bulk fragments from the comet did not last long. It partially hit Jupiter with a force equivalent to 300 million atomic bombs.
This means Comet Atlas may have been very close to the Sun before. This raises an urgent question. If the Atlas crossed the Sun more than 5,000 years ago, why did it disintegrate in 2020 at a relatively large distance from our parent star? “That’s the big question,” Ye says. “It is very unusual because we do not expect it. This is the first time that a relative of a so-called long-period comet has collapsed prematurely.”
Unlike the supposed original comet, Atlas actually exploded more than 100 million miles from the sun; This is farther than the distance between the Sun and the Earth. According to the researchers, Comet Atlas is simply “alien”. Yi said that its collapse at a greater distance from the original comet “confirms its strangeness.”
In their study, the researchers also looked for a conclusive explanation for the early segmentation of the Comet Atlas. They found that part of Atlas disintegrated within a few days while another part lasted for weeks. “This tells us that one part of the heart was stronger than the other,” Ye said. One possibility is that streams of ejected material rotated the comet so fast that centrifugal forces ripped it apart. An alternative explanation is that it contained so-called “ultra-volatile” ice, which blew up the comet like an atmospheric fireworks explosion. Still, speculation remains. “The behavior of Comet Atlas is interesting, but difficult to explain,” Yi concludes.
Comet Atlas is unfortunately no more. But earthlings in the future may still be able to hear the news of his brother alive. For example, researchers predict that it will return to our solar system sometime in the 50th century.