X

Comet Atlas is now in an all-out death dive towards the sun

It shone bright for a bit, and now it's disintegrating as it hurtles towards our star.

img-20200924-185317
img-20200924-185317
Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Expertise Solar, solar storage, space, science, climate change, deregulated energy, DIY solar panels, DIY off-grid life projects. CNET's "Living off the Grid" series. https://www.cnet.com/feature/home/energy-and-utilities/living-off-the-grid/ Credentials
  • Finalist for the Nesta Tipping Point prize and a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Eric Mack
1024px-2019y4-20200314

Comet Atlas

Martin Gembec / CC BY-SA 4.0

Fame for a comet is a fickle thing. One week you're shining bright, the next you find you can't take the heat and start breaking up on the way to a fatal encounter with the sun. 

In March, newly discovered Comet Atlas was going through a rapid brightening phase and some astronomers were hopeful it might put on a spectacular show in the night sky as it flew closer in May. Just a few weeks later, though, it became clear that Atlas probably wasn't going to live up to those expectations as it began to break apart. 

Now amateur astronomers are getting some pretty remarkable images of the space snowball coming apart at the seams. 

Comets are notoriously unpredictable, so it's not shocking that Atlas is falling apart. It's also a little uncertain what will became of it next. It could just continue to fragment into smaller and smaller bits until it becomes impossible to see, or it might fly right into the sun, perhaps putting on one last show for us after all. 

Don't mourn this snowball too long, though, there's still plenty more to see in the night sky: another newfound comet, dubbed SWAN, is on the rise, as are the Lyrid meteors that will peak next week

tt-02-10-20-thumb2
Watch this: Nvidia, Amazon pull out of MWC, NASA and ESA launch new probe to study the sun