Hubble captures the break-up of comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS)

The disintegration of comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) is revealed in sharp detail by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Published: May 9, 2020 at 8:15 am
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Hubble captures the break-up of comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS). Credit NASA, ESA, D. Jewitt (UCLA), Q. Ye (University of Maryland)

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows the sharpest view captured of the breakup of comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS).

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The comet was set to be a bright object in the night sky during May 2020, but unfortunately for comet chasers it began to disintegrate in April.

The Earth-orbiting telescope was able to capture about 30 fragments of the comet - each roughly the size of a house - on 20 April 2020.

C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) was discovered in December 2019 by the ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) and its break-up was confirmed in April 2020.

Two other comets will be visible in the night sky this month. Click on these links for guides to spotting Comet C/2020 F8 Swan and C/2017 T2 PanSTARRS.

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Observatory Hubble Space Telescope

Release date 28 April 2020

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Image credit NASA, ESA, D. Jewitt (UCLA), Q. Ye (University of Maryland)

Authors

Iain Todd, BBC Sky at Night Magazine
Iain ToddScience journalist

Iain Todd is BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Staff Writer. He fell in love with the night sky when he caught his first glimpse of Orion, aged 10.

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