Interstellar comet becomes second detected visitor from outside the solar system
The newly discovered comet, 21/Borisov, is the first interstellar comet to pass us by from another solar system.
The comet is also the second detected interstellar object to penetrate the Solar System.
After detecting the first interstellar object known as “Oumuamua” in 2017, astronomers have been waiting for another visitor, and finally, one has arrived.
Observatory on Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii at sunset. In October 2017, the telescope discovered an object from another star system. It was given the name “Oumuamua,” which in Hawaiian means a messenger from afar arriving first. (AP/AAP)
On September 8, the Interstellar Crusher software, which scans online data of newly discovered asteroids and comets, issued an alert that the object may be arriving from interstellar space.
“This code was written specifically for this purpose, and we really hoped to receive this message one day. We only didn’t know when,” Piotr Guzik, author at Jagiellonian University, said.
Since spotting the comet, scientists and astronomers have been busy getting to know more about the newest “interloper”.
Based on early observations, the 21/Borisov is much closer in resemblance to comets from our own solar system.
In fact, Guzik says that based on these initial characteristics, 21/Borisov “appears indistinguishable from the native Solar System comets”.
The second interstellar object to be detected in our Solar System has been confirmed and named 21/Borisov. (AP/AAP)
Early measurements put the comet at anywhere between 1.9 and 16 kilometres in diameter, according to Karen Meech at the University of Hawaii.
“We immediately noticed the familiar coma and tail that were not seen around ‘Oumuamua,” Michal Drahus, co-author of the study at Jagiellonian University, said.
“This is really cool because it means that our new visitor is one of these mythical and never-before-seen ‘real’ interstellar comets.”
Unlike Oumuamua, 21/Borisov is expected to stick around a bit longer meaning astronomers will get a better chance to make detailed observations.
“The comet is still emerging from the sun’s morning glare and growing in brightness. It will be observable for several months, which makes us believe that the best is yet to come,” Waclaw Waniak, co-author at Jagiellonian University, said.
It’s due to enter the inner part of our solar system on October 26 and will be visible through professional telescopes for months.
The comet is making its way toward our sun and is now 420 million kilometres away.
The closest it will get to Earth will be 305 million kilometres on December 8.
“The object will peak in brightness in mid-December and continue to be observable with moderate-size telescopes until April 2020,” Dave Farnocchia at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said.
Future observations are expected to shed more light on its size, rotation and path.
“We can safely say that research on this body will be transformative for planetary astronomy and a milestone for astronomy in general,” Guzik said.