This is one of the latest images of comet Hale-Bopp. Notice the intense tail
Click on image for full size
National Astronomical Observatory of Japan
Hale-Bopp continues to offer surprises as astronomers
study the comet. Using the Hubble Space Telescope and the International
Ultraviolet Explorer, astronomers have found
that there are distinctly different ices in the comet's nucleus, the nucleus is
huge, and the nucleus is extremely active.
The comet's nucleus seems to be erupting upon itself. Astronomers witnessed the
comet spew out dust in intermittent bursts. The surface seems to be an incredibly dynamic place, with 'vents' being turned on and off as new
patches of icy material are rotated into sunlight for the first time.
The nucleus' structure itself is more complex than astronomers had thought.
Astonomers theorized that trace gases were contained within water ice.
According to Hubble Space Telescope observations, however, Hale-Bopp's nucleus
has trace components contained within their own ice structure, with water ice
remaining separate and uniform.
In addition, the nucleus is tremendously large. Astronomers have estimated
Hale-Bopp's nucleus to be 19-25 miles (30-40 kilometers) in diameter. Comets
are thought to have a nucleus of about 3 miles (5 kilometers) on average.
Chemically speaking, Hale-Bopp also has some unusual characteristics. Most
interesting is the detection of ionized hydrogen carbon monoxide (HCO+) in
the comet. This compound has never been noticed in a comet before. Other
chemicals found in the comet include, sodium (Na), sulfur monoxide (SO),
ionized carbon monoxide (CO+), cyanogen radical (CN), and water (H2O).
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