[meteorite-list] Scientists Monitor Comet Breakup (Comet 168P/Hergenrother)

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Sun, 4 Nov 2012 21:10:53 -0800 (PST)
Message-ID: <201211050510.qA55AsL8019985_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Scientists Monitor Comet Breakup
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
November 02, 2012

The Hergenrother comet is currently traversing the inner-solar system.
Amateur and professional astronomers alike have been following the icy-dirt
ball over the past several weeks as it has been generating a series of
impressive outbursts of cometary-dust material. Now comes word that the
comet's nucleus has taken the next step in its relationship with Mother Nature.

"Comet Hergenrother is splitting apart," said Rachel Stevenson, a post-doctoral
fellow working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Using the
National Optical Astronomy Observatory's Gemini North Telescope on top of Mauna
Kea, Hawaii, we have resolved that the nucleus of the comet has separated
into at least four distinct pieces resulting in a large increase in dust
material in its coma."

With more material to reflect the sun's rays, the comet's coma has brightened

"The comet fragments are considerably fainter than the nucleus," said James Bauer,
the deputy principal investigator for NASA's NEOWISE mission, from the California
Institute of Technology. "This is suggestive of chunks of material being ejected
from the surface."

The comet's fragmentation event was initially detected on Oct. 26 by a team of
astronomers from the Remanzacco Observatory, using the Faulkes Telescope North
in Haleakala, Hawaii. The initial fragment was also imaged by the WIYN telescope
group at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona.

For those interested in viewing Hergenrother, with a larger-sized telescope and a
dark sky, the comet can be seen in between the constellations of Andromeda and

The orbit of comet 168P/Hergenrother comet is well understood. The comet, nor any
of its fragments, are a threat to Earth.

DC Agle 818-393-9011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
agle at jpl.nasa.gov

Received on Mon 05 Nov 2012 12:10:53 AM PST

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