In­cred­i­bly cold comet cap­tured on cam­era

The Courier & Advertiser (Fife Edition) - - NEWS -

Wa­ter ice there is frozen like a rock

An in-bound comet 1.5 bil­lion miles from the sun has been pic­tured mak­ing the long jour­ney from the edge of the so­lar sys­tem.

The lump of frozen wa­ter, gas and dust, with a nu­cleus less than 12 miles across, is the most dis­tant ac­tive in­com­ing comet ever seen.

Known as C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS) or “K2”, the comet has al­ready been trav­el­ling for mil­lions of years from its birth­place in the Oort Cloud, a shell of icy ob­jects on the so­lar sys­tem’s out­er­most fringes.

For the next five years it will con­tinue into the in­ner so­lar sys­tem be­fore reach­ing its clos­est ap­proach to the sun just be­yond the or­bit of Mars. There is no chance of the comet col­lid­ing with Earth.

Be­cause it is al­ready be­ing slightly warmed by the sun the comet has started to de­velop a coma, an 80,000 mile-wide fuzzy halo of dust.

Lead re­searcher Dr David Je­witt, from the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Los An­ge­les, said: “This comet is so far away and so in­cred­i­bly cold that wa­ter ice there is frozen like a rock.

We know for sure that the ac­tiv­ity – all the fuzzy stuff mak­ing it look like a comet – is not pro­duced by the evap­o­ra­tion of wa­ter ice. In­stead, we think the ac­tiv­ity is due to the sub­li­ma­tion (a solid chang­ing di­rectly into a gas). That’s why it’s spe­cial.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.