comet elenin, photographed by stereo b, august 2011.
based on the trajectory of its brief visit to the inner solar system, comet elenin (c/2010 x1) was once an outer oort cloud object with an orbit of millions of years. perturbed inward (possibly by a passing star) the comet partially disintegrated while passing close to the sun (0.48 au), and is now in a 12,000 year orbit in the scattered disc.
top: 7 frames, composite of 14 images. bottom left & right: both component sequences. all photographed 6-12th august.
image credit: nasa/stereo. animation: ageofdestruction.