There is a possibility that after it passes the Earth and continues getting closer to the sun, the dust tail
will lengthen and also brighten," Cook said.
The asteroid is surrounded by a C-shaped cloud of particles and displays a linear dust tail
in this visible-light picture acquired by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3.
As a result, viewers are likely to see a small, sharply defined dust tail
rather than the elongated, wispy gas tail exhibited by Hyakutake, says Marsden.
On May 1, Hyakutake achieved its closest approach to the sun, its dust tail
in full bloom.
When visible, the ion tail is oriented at a slight angle to the dust tail
and is bluish in colour.
Only when it nears the sun does the frozen body burst back into life, sporting three distinct features in visible light--a coma, or cloud of dust and gas surrounding its nucleus; a dust tail
, composed of tiny particles less than a millionth of a meter in diameter; and an ion tail, composed of charged gas molecules.
Though ICE is expected to spend from 1-1/2 to 3 hours in the comet's conspicuous dust tail
, according to von Rosenvinge, the trip through its much subtler ion tail is likely to last only about 5 minutes.