Hubble Takes Close-up Look at Disintegrating Comet

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Comet 332P/Ikeya-Murakami survived for 4.5 billion years in the frigid Kuiper Belt, a vast reservoir of icy bodies on the outskirts of our solar system. The objects are the leftovers from our solar system’s construction. But within the last few million years, the unlucky comet was gravitationally kicked to the inner solar system by the outer planets. The comet, dubbed 332P, found a new home, settling into an orbit just beyond Mars. But the new home, closer to the sun, has doomed the comet. Sunlight is heating up Comet 332P’s surface, causing jets of gas and dust to erupt. The jets act like rocket engines, spinning up the comet’s rotation. The faster spin rate loosened chunks of material, which are drifting off the surface and into space.

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