Comet Atlas receives a visitor: the space probe-the Solar Orbiter will fly through the tail | Multimedia

The comet's "Atlas" was considered as the comet could be visible to the naked eye. Then he broke it. Now he gets a visit from the space probe "Solar Orbiter

Comet Atlas receives a visitor: the space probe-the Solar Orbiter will fly through the tail | Multimedia

The comet's "Atlas" was considered as the comet could be visible to the naked eye. Then he broke it. Now he gets a visit from the space probe "Solar Orbiter" - and could provide new Knowledge about comets.

The comet "Atlas" has been quickly bright hopes sprang up that he is visible to the naked eye Before it got to the point where broke comet "Atlas" in many pieces Now, the comet is interesting but again: The Esa-spacecraft "Solar Orbiter" visited him - random

The comet C/2019 Y4 (Atlas) was the last comet, which was discovered in the year 2019, and a comet , let the hearts of Amateur astronomers in the year 2020 for some time, a beat: The comet "Atlas" has developed magnificently, he was getting brighter and there was hope that he could be the first visible to the naked eye comet for a long time*.

However, comets are unpredictable and comet Atlas was suddenly darker. Astute observers noted at the beginning of April, the comet is broken into several parts. The "Hubble"space telescope* fixed his gaze on the comets, and discovered more than a dozen fragments. Was the dream of bright comet "Atlas" in the Northern hemisphere.

Random encounter: comet's "Atlas" is one of the Esa probe "Solar Orbiter" visited

But even if there is virtually no hope that the comet's "Atlas" shines suddenly bright again, there is another reason why "Atlas" is suddenly back in focus. The reason is called "Solar Orbiter"* and is a space probe of the European space Agency, Esa, in cooperation with the US space Agency Nasa. Has started the probe in February of 2020, in order to take the sun, exactly under the magnifying glass.

But when you look at the trajectory of the space probe and the comet, the researchers Surprising noted: at the end of may and beginning of June 2020 crosses "Solar Orbiter" the trajectory of the comet "Atlas" . This opportunity to study a comet from up close, to the researchers not to be missed - and in fact, "Solar Orbiter" devices on Board, which can also be used. Four instruments of the "Solar Orbiter" can track the tail of the comet, because they are used to measure the environment of the spacecraft.

interesting research object: "Solar Orbiter" hits the tail of the comet "Atlas"

you could collect data on the dust particles in the comet tail , and the electrically charged particles of the comet makes. Due to these emissions is equal to two comet tail : The dust tail a comet in his orbit , and the shooting star streams* triggers when the earth flies through this dust. And the ion-tail of comet , pointing in the opposite direction of the solar .

The space probe, "Solar Orbiter" is the ion tail of comet "Atlas" on December 31. May and 1. June cross. The dust tail of comet through crosses it at 6. June. The ion should be tail tight enough, you can notice the Magnetometer from the spacecraft, a change in the interplanetary magnetic field. At the same time, the Instrument could capture "Solar Wind Analyser" some of the particles.

the "Solar Orbiter" will fly through the dust tail of comet "Atlas"

When the spacecraft flies through the dust tail of comet , it could possibly be made of one or more of the dust grains. For "Solar Orbiter" itself, the means is no danger, emphasizes the ESAs . The dust grains themselves could, however, be evaporated by the impact. The resulting small cloud of electrically charged Gas could be detected by an Instrument called "Radio and Plasma Waves".

"An unexpected meeting such as this provides unique opportunities and challenges, but this is good", - quotes the Esa Günther Hasinger, the scientific Director of the organization. "Opportunities like this are part of the adventure of science," stresses Hasinger.

Unique opportunity for a Meeting in space: the "Solar Orbiter" hits comet "Atlas"

"We are ready for everything, what you want to say comet Atlas ", says Daniel Müller, Esa scientists in the "Solar Orbiter"project. Actually, the space probe, up to 15 should. June be fully functional, but to not miss the unique opportunity, everything was accelerated.

a space probe , which actually has a different goal randomly by the tail of a comet flies, is a rare event. So far only six times in which this happened - and every Time you have noticed it only later, it is, in the ESAs .

meeting of the "Solar Orbiter" with comet "Atlas" was in good time

In the case of comet "Atlas" it was noticed before, and from a researcher who already has experience with these encounters in All: Geraint Jones of the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory, discovered the first random encounter of a space probe with a comet in the year 2000. At that time, the Esa/Nasa space probe "Ulyssees was flown" by the tail of the comet "Hyakutake" - however, Jones had established the first, as he was looking for, in retrospect, strange disturbances in the data from the probe.

Whether "Solar Orbiter" the comet "Atlas" in fact, tracking will need to show: in mid-may, the Remains of the comet are broken further apart, so that it is for the space probe will be harder to discover it. Nevertheless, the scientists are excited: "With each together, we meet with a comet to learn more about these fascinating objects," says Geraint Jones, who will be involved in the future Esa Mission "Comet Interceptor", which is scheduled for launch in 2028. If the "Solar Orbiter" the comet "Atlas" discovered, "we learn more about how the comet with the solar wind to interact," explains Jones more. "All of the missions, the encounter of the comet, to provide the pieces of the puzzle."

the "Solar Orbiter" and comet's "Atlas" orbiting the sun

The space probe, "Solar Orbiter" is on 15. June for the first time, the perihelion, the sun's closest point in its orbit, reach. You will then be about 77 million km from the solar . In the coming years, they will come from the sun, much closer: Up to 42 million miles to be between the surface of the sun and the spacecraft. the comet "Atlas" reaches the perihelion of its orbit, however, already on October 31. May 2020 - he is about 37 million kilometers from the sun.

Tanja Banner

* is part of the nationwide Ippen-Digital-editor.

Updated Date: 29 May 2020, 18:33

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