ESA spacecraft might accidentally fly through the tail of a comet


Comet ATLAS

Hubble Space Telescope image of comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS), taken on 20 April

NASA, ESA, STScI and D. Jewitt (

A chance encounter between a recently launched spacecraft and a comet that began disintegrating last month could help us learn more about these icy objects.

Geraint Jones at University College London and his colleagues have calculated that the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft will pass behind comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) at a distance of about 30 million kilometres in a matter of weeks.

The spacecraft, which launched on 10 February, may pass through the comet’s two long tails, allowing …



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