Greetings from another world! Scientists have recently confirmed that a comet spotted in August originates from outside of our solar system.
This interstellar comet, known as Borisov (named after the amateur astronomer who found it, Gennady Borisov), is only the second interstellar object that scientists have found to date.
Since its discovery, astronomers have analyzed the path this comet is taking, and they’ve determined there is no way this object could have originated from our solar system. How? Its extremely hyperbolic orbit shows that it is merely passing through. Objects that originate in our solar system are stuck on elliptical orbits.
What makes this discovery especially significant is that this object is currently entering our solar system, as opposed to leaving it. The first known interstellar object ever observed (’Oumuamua, in 2017) was spotted as it was flying away from Earth, leaving astronomers with little time to observe in detail.
Current calculations say that comet Borisov will make its closest approach to the Sun on Dec. 7. But much to scientists’ joy, this comet should be observable until at least 2020.
By studying the composition of this comet, astronomers can determine if the solar system that this comet originated from started with the same basic building blocks as our solar system. This will provide insight into how common solar systems like ours actually are!
Interested in more space stories like this one? Catch our all-live show, “Wonders of the Night Sky,” playing in LSC’s Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium. A portion of the show is always set aside for LSC Space News Now stories.