Astronomy Picture of the Day

Comet Holmes from the Hubble Space Telescope

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Comet Holmes from the Hubble Space Telescope

Why did Comet Holmes brighten?

The unexpectedly bright
Comet 17P/Holmes
continues to grace northern skies as a
to the constellation Perseus.

Any northern
sky enthusiast with a
dark sky, a
bright curiosity, and a
recent sky map
should still be able to
locate the comet in a few minutes.

What is seen, however, is primarily the sun-light reflecting dust

It surrounds an iceberg nucleus
too small and too faint to discern.

Clues to the nearly
million-fold brightness increase
are therefore being sought in dramatic images of the
enigmatic comet's central
regions taken earlier this month by the
Hubble Space

One such Hubble image,
shown above, indicates a still unresolved dense
central dust cloud near the
surrounded by a more complex, anisotropic coma.

The Hubble images do not show any
obvious fragmentation
of the nucleus, however, as was seen last year in
Comet Schwassman-Wachmann 3.

Observers around and above the world will continue to study this
unusual addition to the night sky.

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