Research NewsAstronomy

Comet Hyakutake Blazes in X-rays

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Science  12 Apr 1996:
Vol. 272, Issue 5259, pp. 194
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5259.194


When a team of astronomers pointed the x-ray satellite ROSAT at Comet Hyakutake 2 weeks ago, they expected to see a faint smudge of x-rays at best. Instead, they picked up an x-ray glow 100 times brighter than even the most optimistic predictions. Now the challenge is to figure out its source: whether solar radiation is causing elements evaporating from the comet to fluoresce, or whether the x-rays come from a shock wave, formed as the sun's wind of charged particles collides with the comet.