Comet breaks up near Earth

Comet breaks up near Earth: Credit for Hubble Images: NASA, ESA, H. Weaver (JHU/APL), M. Mutchler and Z. Levay (STScI)

A comet is experiencing a spectacular break up as it swings around the sun. It will be at its closest on May 12th. Don't worry! It will be 30 times further away than the moon. Comets are mostly dirty ice. As the sun heats these slush balls they often break up. Even more spectacular is when an inner pocket of vapor bursts through the surface and acts like a rocket propelling that fragment in the opposite direction.

Is this a newly discovered comet?

German astronomers Arnold Schwassmann and Arno Arthur Wachmann discovered this comet during a photographic search for asteroids in 1930, when the comet passed within 5.8 million miles of the Earth (only 24 times the Earth-Moon distance). The comet orbits the Sun every 5.4 years, but it was not seen again until 1979. Astronomers observed its initial breakup into four pieces that year. The comet was missed again in 1985 but has been observed every return since then.

Hubble still taking pictures after 16 years.

NASA and the European Space agency have released new images from the Hubble Space Telescope showing the dramatic breakup of comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. The comet's nucleus has shattered into more than 33 pieces, and is likely to continue to disintegrate. They have even put several pictures together to create a movie of the breakup. Choose one from this page

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

does the comet have a name?=)

posted on Tue, 05/02/2006 - 4:57pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Yes. :)\r\n\r\nThe comet is called Schwassmann-Wachmann 3.

posted on Wed, 05/03/2006 - 9:07am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

It's very interesting how things in space react to things around them.I can't wait to see the comet on May 12!

posted on Tue, 05/02/2006 - 5:24pm

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