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The commit “suicide” Atlas has been recorded in what may be one of his last sightings, human Relations Observatory Terrestrial Solar NASA, or spacecraft Stereo-A, which captured images of the body while rushing towards the Sun from 25 may to 1 June.

In the animated image, the Atlas emerges from the top of the frame and is closer to the Sun, out of the camera to the left, against the gusts of solar wind. Its tail of dust, which reflects the light of the Sun, appears white. Mercury also is visible as a bright spot that emerges from the left against the star field stationary. The vertical stripes in the image are artifacts created by saturation of bright stars in the background.

Solar Orbiter going through his tail

While Stereo recorded these images, Solar Orbiter crossed one of the tails of the comet Atlas. Launched in February 2020, the spacecraft was not scheduled to enter into scientific operations are complete until the 15 of June, but the engineers adjusted the schedule of tests of Solar Orbiter and activated their four instruments most relevant to the meeting. This is the first time that predicts in advance a crossing of the tail of a comet by a spacecraft not designed to chase them.

as the material emerges from the nucleus of a comet, leaves two tails: a thin tail of the ions, made of charged particles, and a tail of dust more diffuse that it reflects the visible light, says NASA in a press release.

The queue of ions always pointing away from the Sun regardless of the comet’s path; the tail of dust follows more closely the path of the comet. Solar Orbiter crossed the queue of ions on the 31st of may, about 40 million miles and outside the field of vision of Stereo. The team is still waiting for those results. He flew through the remains of the tail of dust on the 6th of June.

The origins of Atlas

The comet Atlas was discovered on December 28, 2019 in images captured by the System last alert of the terrestrial impact of asteroids, or the inspection system, astronomical robotics Atlas in Hawaii. Comets carry the traditional name of the instrument or the person who discovered them.

The comet is still a orbit that takes you beyond the Sun approximately every 6,000 years , although the observations suggest that the comet is disintegrating now, and is unlikely to return. Probably originated in the Oort cloud, a cloud, a spherical ice and rocks that surrounds our solar system. The Oort cloud starts about 67 times farther than Neptune.