Comet news: An interstellar alien comet Q4 Boris is barreling towards us | Science | News


Oumuamua was the first interstellar visitor of its kind to zip through the solar system in 2017. The incredible discovery sparked widespread interest from the scientific community but the cigar-shaped rock did not pass close enough to be properly studied. A Ukrainian astronomer, however, has now spotted a new object from outside of the solar system and this time the rock will come closer to Earth. Initially dubbed gb00234, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has confirmed the object to be Comet C/2019 Q4 (Borisov).

The interstellar was spotted flying through our system on August 30 this year by Ukrainian astronomer Gennady Borisov.

Mr Borisov shared his discovery on the forum Astronomy.ru where he posted a brief animation of a faint object moving across the sky.

The astronomer said the object was most likely a comet with a bright coma and tail.

The interstellar visitor was filmed in the morning hours local time, using a 650mm telescope.

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Since the discovery was made, a number of observatories have confirmed the object to be a speeding comet.

Most notably, the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center (MPC) has named it COMET C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) on September 11.

The IAU said: “Based on the available observations, the orbit solution for this object has converged to the hyperbolic elements shown below, which would indicate an interstellar origin.

“A number of other orbit computers have reached similar conclusions, initially D. Farnocchia (JPL), W. Gray, and D. Tholen (UoH).

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“Further observations are clearly very desirable, as all currently-available observations have been obtained at small solar elongations and low elevations.

“Absent an unexpected fading or disintegration, this object should be observable for at least a year.”

The interstellar comet is the second object from outside of the solar system to visit us.

But according to Matthew Payne of the MPC, there are many notable differences.

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Speaking to Forbes, the astronomer said C/2019 Q4 is heading into the solar system and not out of it, like Oumuamua.

The comet also appears to be six times brighter and is hurtling through space at nearly 30km per second or 67,108mph.

The icy rock also appears to measure roughly 6.2 miles across (10km), making it a formidable object to study.

And with its trajectory bringing it close to Mars and Earth, astronomers will have a good chance to study it in better detail than they did with Oumuamua.

According to astronomy software developer Bill Gray, the comet will fly through the solar system for about six months.

He said: “We don’t know how bright it’s going to be.

“That’s always an issue with comets, so you’ve got that unpredictability, combined with the fact that it is interstellar.

“And this is the first interstellar comet we’ve seen.”



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