Music credit: Game Show Sphere 01 by Anselm Kreuzer
Oliver Price, a planetary science PhD student at University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory in the United Kingdom, has developed a new image-processing technique to mine through the wealth of data about comet tails. Price’s findings offer the first observations of striations forming in the tails, and an unexpected revelation about the Sun’s effect on comet dust. Understanding how dust behaves in the tail — how it fragments and clumps together — can teach scientists a great deal about similar processes that formed dust into asteroids, moons and even planets all those billions of years ago. With this study, scientists gain new insights to long-held mysteries. The work sheds light on the nature of striated comet tails from the past and provides a crucial lens for studying other comets in the future. But it also opens a new line of questioning: What role did the Sun have in our solar system’s formation and early history?