It appears that Comet Atlas, which was spotted by astronomers last year heading for the heart of our solar system and which is known officially as C/2019 Y4, has fallen apart before making its closest approach to the sun, space.com reports.
Earlier this month, an astronomer from the Moscow Planetarium, who explained that the comet visited our solar system last time during the 4th millennium BC, said that C/2019 Y4 will pass Earth at a distance of about 117 million kilometers on 27 May, and on 31 May, it will approach the Sun at a distance of about 38 million kilometers – less than the distance between the Sun and Mercury.
Best images I’ve seen so far from Nick Haigh, showing the fragments of Comet ATLAS pic.twitter.com/yf9kFWwtJZ— Con Stoitsis (@vivstoitsis) April 14, 2020
The astronomer also suggested that the comet "may become the brightest one in our sky for the last seven years", adding that its greenish hue is a product of poisonous chemical compound called cyanogen contained within the space traveler's core.
Now, however, astrophysicist Gianluca Masi, founder and director of the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy, has announced that the comet "has shattered both its and our hearts," according to the media outlet.
Disintegrated comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) imaged on April 10 through 1.4m f/5.1 telescope at Astronomical Station Vidojevica, AOB, Serbia.— ☆Matthijs Burgmeijer (@MMBurgmeijer) April 13, 2020
5 fragments/condesations are visible.
Exposure 60x60s, R filter. pic.twitter.com/9s4bqcklpJ
"Its nucleus disintegrated, and last night I could see three, possibly four main fragments", he explained.
As the media outlet points out, such breakups are fairly common for comets "which spend most of their lives in the frigid depths of the outer solar system and court danger whenever they get close to the sun", and it appears that this particular space wanderer won't treat stargazers on Earth to the spectacle they've been expecting from it.