Tail front and back. NASA spacecraft saw an unusual comet that circled the Sun (video)

The short-period comet has an unusual feature that scientists have been able to confirm.

The existence of comet 96P/Machholtz 1 has been known to scientists for 36 years. But only 15 years ago, scientists learned that it has a very unusual composition for such short-period comets – it has very little carbon. Now scientists have confirmed another unusual feature of this comet – it has a tail not only behind, like everyone else, but also a front tail that flies ahead of the comet, writes Space.

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Comet 96P/Mackholtz 1 has a diameter of approximately 6 km and was observed by the SOHO spacecraft between January 30 and February 2 this year. This comet flies up to our star every 5 years, and since 2017, scientists have suspected that it has, in addition to its unusual composition, one more feature – a front tail of icy debris.

Thanks to new observations by the SOHO spacecraft, scientists have confirmed their guesses and found that there is still a tail ahead of the comet, which is about 6 km wide. Of course, observations have shown that, like other comets, 96P/Mackholtz 1 has a debris tail that rubs behind the comet as the heat of the Sun evaporates its icy surface. The SOHO instruments took a series of images that clearly show fragments of a comet that are on opposite sides of the ice ball during its flight around the Sun.

comet, 96P/Mackholtz 1, Sunfullscreen
The SOHO instruments took a series of images that clearly show fragments of a comet that are on opposite sides of the ice ball during its flight around the Sun.
Photo: NASA

The story of comet 96P/Mackholz 1’s potentially second tail began as early as 2012, when SOHO scientists found several small fragments in SOHO images that were ahead of the comet during its flight. After 5 years, the device saw even more of these debris flying ahead of the comet.

Therefore, scientists from the California Institute of Technology decided to test the theory that the comet has a forward tail during its approach to the Sun in late January and early February of this year.

After analyzing the archival data again, the scientists found a thin trail of debris that seemed to be pursued by a comet, but this tail was far ahead of the ice ball itself. The new SOHO images have shown more clearly that theory and previous data support comet 96P/Mackholtz 1 with two tails. Now scientists are preparing for the next approach of this comet to the Sun in 2028 in order to get the most complete picture of all its features.

Focus has already written in detail about how comet 96P/Mackholtz 1 was discovered and why scientists consider it an interstellar object .

Focus also wrote that on Friday, February 10 and Saturday, February 11, there will be a unique opportunity to observe the flight of comet C / 2022 E3 ZTF for the last time . It is currently on its way to the outer reaches of the solar system, after approaching Earth in early February. Some scholars suggest that she will not return again.

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