NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has photographed the farthest active inbound comet ever seen, at a whopping distance of 1.5 billion miles from the Sun. Slightly warmed by the remote Sun, it has already begun to develop an 80,000-mile-wide fuzzy cloud of dust, called a coma, enveloping a tiny, solid nucleus of frozen gas and dust.
In the final months of Europe’s LISA Pathfinder mission, scientists have found an unexpected use for the trailblazing testbed for a future gravitational wave observatory by tracking the tiny dings made by microscopic particles that strike the spacecraft in deep space, exploiting the impacts to learn about the population of dust grains cast off by comets and asteroids across the solar system.
Qicheng Zhang is an undergraduate astrophysics major at UC Santa Barbara. A recipient of a Thomas R. McGetchin Memorial Scholarship from the Universities Space Research Association, Zhang’s award-winning work demonstrates that a comet could be manipulated to mitigate a potential impact with Earth by heating it with a high-powered laser array.
A new study reveals similarities and relationships between certain types of chemicals found on 30 different comets, which vary widely in their overall composition compared to one another. The research is part of ongoing investigations into these primordial bodies, which contain material largely unchanged from the solar system’s birth some 4.6 billion years ago.