☄️ A visitor from the Stone Age? Possibly!
Using our @NASAHubble Space Telescope, a new study reports the comet in this image – ATLAS – is a broken off piece from a larger comet that might have been visible 5,000 years ago!
ATLAS follows the same orbital “railroad track” as that of a comet seen in 1844, meaning the two are probably siblings from a parent comet that broke apart at the end of the Stone Age.
But comet ATLAS is strange… It disintegrated into small, icy pieces in mid-2020 while it was farther from the Sun than Earth. This is the first time a long-period comet family member was seen breaking up before passing closer to our star.
Its surviving sibling won’t return until the 50th century!
Credit: Science: NASA, ESA, Quanzhi Ye (UMD); Image Processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)