Oct 9, 2019 by Enrico de Lazaro
The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has released an incredibly beautiful image of an Oort cloud comet called C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS). The image was captured in January 2018 by the SPECULOOS (Search for habitable Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars) project at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile.
This image shows the Oort cloud comet C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS). Image credit: ESO / SPECULOOS Team / E. Jehin.
C/2016 R2 was discovered on September 7, 2016 using the Pan-STARRS telescopes in Hawai’i.
The comet has a highly eccentric orbit tilted at an angle of 58 degrees to the ecliptic, and a semi-major axis of 740 AU (1 AU being the Earth-Sun distance).
It orbits the Sun once every 21,600 years, its most recent approach being in May 2018.
“Comets are balls of dust, ice, gas and rock. When they pass close to the Sun, their ice warms up, turns to gas, and escapes in a process called outgassing,” the ESO astronomers said.
“This process forms fuzzy envelopes around the comets’ nucleus, called comas, and distinctive tails.”
“Observations from SPECULOOS show that the tail of C/2016 R2 changes dramatically across a single night, making for a dynamic set of images.”
The image of the comet was taken on January 18, 2018, during the test phase of SPECULOOS’s Callisto telescope, when the comet was 2.85 AU from the Sun and traveling inwards.
“C/2016 R2 is particularly exciting because of the rare compounds and molecules that scientists detected in its coma: carbon monoxide and nitrogen ions,” the researchers said.
“These compounds give the comet distinctive blue emission lines — so much so that it is nicknamed the blue comet.”
Thanks to: http://www.sci-news.com