Hubble Telescope zooms in on interstellar visitor: Comet 2I/Borisov

James Marshall
October 17, 2019

The object was spotted fairly early in its trip through our solar system, meaning that scientists will have a much larger window to observe it than they had with the first interstellar object, Oumuamua.

"The animation records what the comet looks like when emphasizing the coma very near the nucleus versus the fainter but more extended comet tail".

Comet 2I/Borisov, which was first spotted on August 30 by Crimean amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov, is remarkable for three reasons.

That means they'll have extra time to study the object while it's still passing through, giving plenty of opportunity to obtain new images and videos like Karas'.

Comet 2I/Borisov is on a path that is carrying it down through the inner solar system, with its closest approach to the Sun being just beyond the orbit of Mars.

This article was originally published by Futurism.

It is expected to make its closest approach to the Sun on December 7, coming within about 182 million miles (293 million km) of our star.

"It's travelling so fast it nearly doesn't care that the Sun is there".

Hubble's observations of Borisov happened on October 12, when the comet was about 260 million miles (418 million km) from Earth.

Astronomers with the International Astronomical Union and NASA JPL determined that, based on its trajectory and speed, the comet had to originate from outside the Solar System.

Amaya Moro-Martin of the Space Telescope Science Institute added: "Because another star system could be quite different from our own, the comet could have experienced significant changes during its long interstellar journey".

Until now, all cataloged comets have come from either a ring of icy debris at the periphery of our solar system, called the Kuiper belt, or the hypothetical Oort cloud, a shell of comets about a light-year from the Sun, defining the dynamical edge of our solar system.

2I/Borisov and 'Oumuamua are only the beginning of the discoveries of interstellar objects paying a brief visit to our Solar System. "There could be thousands of such objects within the solar system at any one time, although most are beyond the reach of modern-day telescopes" observational capabilities. Future Hubble observations are planned at least through January, with more proposals being considered for later in 2020.

Max Mutchler, a member of the Hubble observing team who's based at the Space Telescope Science Institute, said there could be more surprises ahead. "Hubble is poised to monitor whatever happens next with its superior sensitivity and resolution".

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of global cooperation between ESA and NASA. Hubble - along with other telescopes - will be on the lookout into next year. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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