View larger. | Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) as seen on April 20, 2020, as it was breaking up. Hubble Space Telescope photos identify as many as 30 separate fragments. Hubble caught the comet when it was approximately 91 million miles (150 million km) from Earth. The image’s color has been artificially enhanced. Astronomers believe the comet might be a broken-off piece of a larger comet that swung by the sun 5,000 years ago. Image via HubbleSite.
Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope said late last week that an early brilliant comet, witnessed by our ancestors 5,000 years ago, might be related to Comet ATLAS, which broke apart in our sky in 2020. That early comet would have been seen in the predawn sky. HubbleSite explained:
There is no direct evidence for this visitor because the start of recorded history was still a few centuries away … [but it] might have been a spectacular sight to civilizations across Eurasia and North Africa at the end of the Stone Age.
Astronomers now believe this early comet might have split into at least two pieces. After rounding the sun, both pieces headed out again to the outer solar system, not to return for ...