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The left-most picture here was taken by a ground-based telescope run by the University of Hawaii. In this image, Comet Linear appears as a diffuse, elongated cloud of debris without any visible nucleus. The image on the right was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope on the same day, August 5, 2000. Hubble's resolution was needed to show that the nucleus of the comet had actually fragmented into many pieces. Scientists call these leftover pieces "cometesimals". Hubble has found at least 16 of these "cometesimals", some of which are as wide as 330 feet across.
Click on image for full size
NASA, Harold Weaver (Johns Hopkins University), and the HST Comet LINEAR Investigation Team

The Amazing, Vanishing Linear!
News story originally written on May 25, 2001

Comet Linear is a special comet. This comet actually blew apart last summer when it came closest to the Sun! It got really bright when it blew apart! But now, comet Linear is just a trail of dust and rocky pieces orbiting the Sun.

Astronomers have been studying the leftover pieces of Linear. Some are as small as a piece of dust and some are as big as a football field! But astronomers haven't seen medium-size pieces - it's like they disappeared!

So far there doesn't seem to be enough pieces to make up comet Linear before it broke apart. It's like there are pieces missing to a puzzle. Maybe scientists just need to find more pieces to the puzzle or maybe scientists will change their minds as to how big Linear was.

Last modified May 23, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA