Comet Christensen Has Carbon Gas
An expanded view of comet C/2006 W3 (Christensen) is shown here. The WISE spacecraft observed this comet on April 20th, 2010 as it traveled through the constellation Sagittarius. Comet Christensen was nearly 370 million miles (600 million kilometers) from Earth at the time.
The extent of the dust, about a tenth of a degree across in this image, is about 2/3rds the diameter of the sun.
The red contours show the signal from the gas emission observed by the WISE spacecraft in the 4.6 micron wavelength channel, which contains carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2) emission lines. The strength of the 4.6 micron signal indicates over half a metric ton per second of CO or CO2 was emitted from this comet at the time of the observations.
The WISE spacecraft was put into hibernation in 2011 upon completing its goal of surveying the entire sky in infrared light. WISE cataloged three quarters of a billion objects, including asteroids, stars and galaxies. In August 2013, NASA decided to reinstate the spacecraft on a mission to find and characterize more asteroids.
JPL manages NEOWISE for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. The Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah, built the science instrument. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colorado, built the spacecraft. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.