From Hubble: “Hubble Catches Views of a Jet Rotating with Comet 252P/LINEAR”

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May 12, 2016

For thousands of years, humans have recorded sightings of mysterious comets sweeping across the nighttime skies. These celestial wanderers, “snowballs” of dust and ice, are swift-moving visitors from the cold depths of space. Some of them periodically visit the inner solar system during their journeys around the sun.

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured images of Comet 252P/LINEAR just after it swept by Earth on March 21.

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Credit: NASA, ESA, and J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute)
Release Date: May 12, 2016

Data Description: The image was created from Hubble data from proposal 14103: J.-Y. Li and N. Samarasinha (Planetary Science Institute), M. Kelley (University of Maryland), M. Mutchler (STScI), and D. Farnocchia (Jet Propulsion Laboratory).
Instrument: WFC3/UVIS
Exposure Date(s): April 4, 2016

The visit was one of the closest encounters between a comet and our planet. The comet traveled within 3.3 million miles of Earth, or about 14 times the distance between our planet and the moon. The images reveal a narrow, well-defined jet of dust ejected by the comet’s icy, fragile nucleus. These observations also represent the closest celestial object Hubble has observed, other than the moon. The comet will return to the inner solar system again in 2021.

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The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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