Comet LINEAR falls apart

Comet LINEAR falls apart

. A composite of two Hubble Space Telescope, or HST, images (top panel), taken on 5 August 2000, shows the bright dust tail of Comet C/1999 S4 (LINEAR) subtending a region nearly 58 million meters across. The tail was created primarily during the complete destruction of part of the cometís nucleus about two weeks earlier. The rest of the nucleus broke up into fragments that are seen clustered near the tip of the tail (right). The European Southern Observatoryís Very Large Telescope image (bottom panel), taken about 35 hours after the HST image, was processed using unsharp masking which suppressed light from the tail and enhanced the visibility of the fragments. This image is about 103 million meters across at the comet, and the nearly vertical streaks are tracks of stars passing through the field near the comet. Since the Earthís orbit will not intersect the cometís orbit, the comet debris will not create future meteor showers on Earth. (Courtesy of Harold Weaver, the HST/VLT observing team, NASA/ESA, ESO, and the Space Telescope Science Institute.)

Copyright 2010, Professor Kenneth R. Lang, Tufts University