The cosmic streams of dust revealed the missing object became an asteroid
National Astronomical Observatory of Japan
The reappearance of a long-lost meteor shower has finally explained what happened to a missing comet named 289P/Blanpain.
That comet was spotted only once in 1819 and never again, unusual for a body orbiting the sun. But in 2003, astronomers found a small asteroid moving along the Blanpain orbit, suggesting the space rock might be the comet (or a piece of it) after it ejected much of its cometary dust.
Some of that dust may have been what Japanese researchers saw in 1956 when they observed a meteor shower from the constellation Phoenix. Meteor showers occur when dust left behind by a comet burns up as it hits Earth’s atmosphere. Those “Phoenicid” meteors hadn’t been seen before — or since.
Astronomer Jun-ichi Watanabe of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan in Tokyo and colleagues traced the meteors to where the comet’s dust trail should have been. In