Astronomers Capture Images Of Only The Second Interstellar Object Ever Observed By Humans Ever
Oumuamua was the first interstellar object to enter our solar system from another part of the galaxy two years ago. The mysterious object that some, including Stephen Hawking, entertained the thought that the space rock could be an alien spacecraft. Oumuamua didn’t stick around for humans to examine the interstellar object because it zoomed past Earth at 200,000 MPH. Now we have another interstellar visitor and this one will stick around a little longer for astronomers to learn about.
On August 30, 2019, Comet C/2019 Q4 was spotted by amateur Ukrainian astronomer Gennady Borisov at the MARGO observatory in Nauchnij, Crimea. This bizarre comet is only the second interstellar object ever seen by humans.
Astronomers say that it is a comet because it seems to have a central icy body and a fuzzy tail forms when the sun’s radiation vaporizes the more volatile ingredients of the speeding space rock. Oumuamua was also interstellar, but it didn’t have the telltale cometary blur.
Scientists are positive that Comet C/2019 Q4 is an interstellar object because it is traveling at 93,000 miles per hour, which is far too fast to be pulled in by the sun’s gravity.
“The high velocity indicates not only that the object likely originated from outside our solar system, but also that it will leave and head back to interstellar space,” said Davide Farnocchia of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at Jet Propulsion JPL says the velocity is significantly above other objects that orbit the Sun this far away.
Based on new data, scientists speculate that interstellar comets are made with the same elements and in the same way comets in our solar system are created. However, the Borisov Comet doesn’t seem to have a circular or elliptical orbit but more of an arc-shaped trajectory.
While Oumuamua sped by our planet, astronomers will have a full year to observe and study Comet C/2019 Q4. Scientists will attempt to understand exactly what the comet is made of and where it originated from.
“The object will peak in brightness in mid-December and continue to be observable with moderate-size telescopes until April 2020,” explained Farnocchia. “After that, it will only be observable with larger professional telescopes through October 2020.”
The nucleus of the comet is estimated to be between 1.2 and 10 miles in diameter, which is much larger than the cigar-shaped Oumuamua that was only 500-feet.
The interstellar comet won’t come close to Earth and at the closest point will be 190 million miles away from our planet. The comet is current approximately 260 million miles from the sun. There are about 6,300 known comets in our solar system.
The Gemini Observatory located on top of the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii snapped a two-color composite image of C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), and we got our first full-color photo. The Borisov Comet is green in color and not very red. This was the first object of its kind to be successfully imaged in multiple colors.
“This image was possible because of Gemini’s ability to rapidly adjust observations and observe objects like this, which have very short windows of visibility,” said Andrew Stephens, an astronomer with the Gemini Observatory. “However, we really had to scramble for this one since we got the final details at 3:00 am and were observing it by 4:45!”
Asteroids and comets are believed to be leftover material from the formation of a system, so Comet C/2019 Q4 could allow scientists to understand another solar system that is light-years away.
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