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The offset nature of the coma, seen in ground-based images, suggests "a large fragment broke off and subsequently disintegrated into tiny dust particles after moving away from the main nucleus.
The powerful Hubble telescope has been orbiting a couple of hundred miles above Earth for 17 years, and seven years ago trained its eye on Comet Holmes, nearly 150 million miles away, without seeking anything special. It inferred from the comet's brightness that its nucleus of rock and ice was barely more than 2 miles wide and that no dust obscured it.
Now the three close-in Hubble images have zeroed in on the 15,000-mile core of particles closest to the nucleus.
"We may finally be starting to detect the emergence of the nucleus itself," Weaver said.