Comet C/2019 This autumn is imaged by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Hawaii’s Big Island September 10, 2019. NASA/JPL/Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope/Handout by way of REUTERS
(Reuters) – A newly found comet hurtling towards the orbit of Mars has scientists scurrying to substantiate whether or not it got here from outdoors the photo voltaic system, a likely prospect that may make it the second such interstellar object noticed in our planetary neighborhood.
The trajectory of the comet, first detected by Crimean astronomer Gennady Borisov, follows a extremely curved path barreling within the solar’s course at unusually excessive speeds, proof that it originated past the photo voltaic system.
“On our team we’ve been scrambling here at the University of Hawaii to get observations to make position measurements,” mentioned Karen Meech, an astronomer on the college whose crew concluded that the article’s dimension and tail of gasoline classify it as a comet.
“Every time a new comet is discovered, everybody starts to try and get data so that you can get the orbit,” Meech informed Reuters, including that her researchers “all are 100 percent convinced that this really, truly is interstellar.”
The comet, an obvious amalgam of ice and dirt, is anticipated to make its closest strategy to the solar on Dec. 8, placing it 190 million miles (300 million km) from Earth, on a route believed distinctive to such objects of interstellar origin.
Once confirmed interstellar, the comet – dubbed C/2019 This autumn by astronomers – would turn out to be solely the second such physique ever noticed by scientists.
The first was a cigar-shaped comet dubbed ‘Oumuamua – a reputation of Hawaiian origin which means a messenger from afar arriving first – that sailed into our planetary neighborhood in 2017, prompting preliminary hypothesis that it might have been an alien spacecraft. Astronomers quickly reached a consensus that it was not.
Unlike ‘Oumuamua, which visited the photo voltaic system for less than per week, the newfound comet will linger close to Mars’ orbit for nearly a 12 months, giving scientists ample time to characterize its chemical signatures and search additional clues about its origin.
“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,” mentioned Davide Farnocchia, an astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
Reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington; Editing by Steve Gorman and Leslie Adler