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C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS), or ‘K2,’ was discovered on May 21, 2017 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) in Hawaii.
Slightly warmed by the remote Sun, K2 has already begun to develop an 80,000-mile-wide fuzzy cloud of dust, called a coma.
“K2 is so far from the Sun and so cold, we know for sure that the activity — all the fuzzy stuff making it look like a comet — is not produced, as in other comets, by the evaporation of water ice,” Dr. Jewitt explained.
Based on the Hubble observations of K2’s coma, the astronomers suggest that sunlight is heating frozen volatile gases — such as oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide — that coat the comet’s frigid surface. These icy volatiles lift off from the comet and release dust, forming the coma. “I think these volatiles are spread all through K2, and in the beginning billions of years ago, they were probably all through every comet presently in the Oort Cloud,” Dr. Jewitt said.
Hubble’s sharp ‘eye’ also helped the team estimate the size of K2’s nucleus — less than 12 miles across — though the tenuous coma is 10 Earth diameters across.
fuzzy stuff making it look like a comet
originally posted by: rickymouse
That is such a long time to wait. 2022 is five years away, the world could end and we would never see it up close. Maybe it is what was referred to as Niburu in the past, it might just be something that was not understood when it was here last. So, maybe it will look like a big eye in the sky for a while. Possibly the eye of Ra.
originally posted by: gortex
People bitch that there's nothing interesting on ATS anymore then when something interesting comes along they don't bother to comment on it !
No pleasing some people.
A solitary frozen traveler has been journeying for millions of years toward the heart of our planetary system. The wayward vagabond, a city-sized snowball of ice and dust called a comet, was gravitationally kicked out of the Oort Cloud, its frigid home at the outskirts of the solar system. This region is a vast comet storehouse, composed of icy leftover building blocks from the construction of the planets 4.6 billion years ago.
originally posted by: Blue Shift
I'm still not entirely convinced that there is such as thing as an "Oort Cloud," and I'm not aware of any proven mechanism by which a comet -- certainly not a single comet -- in it might be sent sailing out of it on a long elliptical solar orbit. Well, gravity perturbations, of course. Eh. Prove it.
The Oort Cloud is believed to be a thick bubble of icy debris that surrounds our solar system.
The Oort cloud is very far from the Sun. It is outside the bubble produced by our Sun’s solar wind and magnetic field by a considerable distance. While Voyager 1 has left this magnetic bubble, and entered what is called “interstellar space”, it has several hundred more years of traveling before it even reaches the inner edge of the Oort cloud.
The comet is record-breaking because it is already becoming active under the feeble glow of the distant sun. Astronomers have never seen an active inbound comet this far out, where sunlight is merely 1/225th its brightness as seen from Earth. Temperatures, correspondingly, are at a minus 440 degrees Fahrenheit. Even at such bone-chilling temperatures, a mix of ancient ices on the surface – oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide – is beginning to sublimate and shed as dust. This material balloons into a vast 80,000-mile-wide (130,000-km-wide) halo of dust, called a coma, enveloping the solid nucleus.
We present observations showing in-bound long-period comet C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS) to be active at record heliocentric distance. Nucleus temperatures are too low (60 K to 70 K) either for water ice to sublimate or for amorphous ice to crystallize, requiring another source for the observed activity. Using the Hubble Space Telescope we find a sharply-bounded, circularly symmetric dust coma 10^5 km in radius, with a total scattering cross section of ∼10^5 km2. The coma has a logarithmic surface brightness gradient -1 over much of its surface, indicating sustained, steady-state dust production. A lack of clear evidence for the action of solar radiation pressure suggests that the dust particles are large, with a mean size ≳ 0.1 mm. Using a coma convolution model, we find a limit to the apparent magnitude of the nucleus V> 25.2 (absolute magnitude H> 12.9). With assumed geometric albedo pV = 0.04, the limit to the nucleus circular equivalent radius is < 9 km. Pre-discovery observations from 2013 show that the comet was also active at 23.7 AU heliocentric distance. While neither water ice sublimation nor exothermic crystallization can account for the observed distant activity, the measured properties are consistent with activity driven by sublimating supervolatile ices such as CO2, CO, O2 and N2. Survival of supervolatiles at the nucleus surface is likely a result of the comet's recent arrival from the frigid Oort cloud.
it came from the Oort Cloud, a spherical region almost a light-year in diameter