Comet ATLAS began to fall apart on approach to the Sun. This is evidenced by images taken using ground-based telescopes, according to a study by scientists from the California Institute of Technology, published on The Astronomer’s Telegram.
The comet, also known as C / 2019 Y4, was discovered by astronomers from the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) in December 2019. At that time, it was a dull object, but after only a month its brightness grew by about 4 thousand times.
The increase in brightness occurred much faster than scientists thought – in this regard, researchers suggested that C / 2019 Y4 would be the brightest comet in the last 20 years. It was planned that the celestial body could be seen from the Earth with the help of simple telescopes in May.
However, recent observations of the object using the NEXT ground-based telescope showed that as the comet approached the Sun, the comet began to decay into several parts.
Astronomers believe that the cause of this may be the destruction of the comet’s nucleus and the separation of large fragments from it or the influence of non-gravitational forces. In any case, further destruction will lead to a strong loss of brightness by the comet – most likely, it will not be visible without special equipment from the Earth.