For astronomers, finding objects from long distances is all part of the performance, but sometimes our solar system takes care of the hard work by bringing interesting objects with a cosmic hair width above the Earth. Comets are one of those types of objects, and in a new blog post, NASA shows beautiful (if somewhat blurry) images of the brightest comet of 2018.
This special ball of ice and rock is called 46P / Wirtanen. The images you see here were taken on December 13th, when the comet was at a distance of about 7.4 million kilometers from our planet.
The visible light image (above) makes the comet itself a little hard to see, but hides the brightest central area of the blurred blue cloud. This cloud is a mixture of dust and gas, which ejects the iced object the closer it gets to the sun. This material forms the iconic "tail" that we all expect from comets.
In the infrared image (below) you can see a clearly defined core more clearly. These images helped scientists study the comet closely and learn more about how sunlight affects these types of objects, as well as the debris clouds that stream around them.
5.4 years, much faster than the 75-year orbit of the most famous comet Halley, "says NASA. "Most passes through the inner solar system are much further away from Earth, making this year's exhibition particularly noteworthy."
NASA and other scientific institutions around the world have reason enough to study comets, especially in the wake of new research and theories that comets in the distant past may have delivered large amounts of water to our planet. If this was indeed the case, we may have comets for our existence.