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Hubble watches new interstellar visitor



heic1918 – Photo Publication

16. October 2019

On October 12, 2019, the NASA / ESA Hubble Space Telescope gave astronomers their best ever view of an interstellar visitor – Comet 2I / Borisov – who presumably had one came from another planetary system in our galaxy.

This observation is the sharpest view ever taken of the interstellar comet. Hubble shows a central dust concentration around the solid ice core.

Comet 2I / Borisov is just the second interstellar object known to have passed our solar system. In 2017, the first identified interstellar visitor, an object named "Oumuamua", swung around the sun within 38 million kilometers before fleeing the solar system.

" While Oumuamua looked like a naked rock, Borisov is really active, more like a normal comet. It's a mystery why these two are so different "said David Jewitt of UCLA, head of the Hubble team watching the comet.

As a second interstellar object that enters our solar system, the comet provides valuable insights. For example, it provides clues to the chemical composition, structure and dust properties of a planetary building block that was probably forged long ago in a foreign star system.

" Because another star system could be quite possible unlike ourselves, the comet could have undergone significant changes on its long interstellar journey. However, its properties are very similar to those of the building blocks of the solar system, and this is quite remarkable "said Amaya Moro-Martin of the Institute for Space Telescope Research in Baltimore, Maryland.

Hubble photographed the comet at a distance of approximately 420 million kilometers from Earth [1

]. The comet moves toward the sun and approaches the sun closest to the sun on December 7, when it is twice as far from the sun as the earth. It also follows a hyperbolic path around the sun and is currently glowing at an extraordinary speed of over 150,000 kilometers per hour. By mid-2020, the comet will be heading back to interstellar space, where it will drift for millions of years, before perhaps one day approaching another star system.

The Crimean amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov discovered the comet for the first time on 30 August 2019. After a week of observations by amateur astronomers and professional astronomers around the world, the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center calculated an orbit for the comet which emerged that he came from the interstellar space. So far, all cataloged comets either come from a ring of icy debris on the periphery of our solar system, the Kuiper belt, or the Oort cloud, a shell of icy objects, presumably located in the outermost regions of our Earth Edge, which is about 2000 times the distance between earth and sun.

2I / Borisov and & # 39; Oumuamua are just the beginning of the discovery of interstellar objects that pay a brief visit to our solar system. There can be thousands of such interstellar objects here at any time; Most, however, are too weak to be recognized by today's telescopes.

Observations from Hubble and other telescopes have shown that rings and shells of icy debris surround young stars in which planets are forming. A gravitational interaction between these comet-like objects and other massive bodies could throw them deep into space, where they float between the stars.

Future Hubble observations by 2I / Borisov are scheduled for January 2020, with more proposed.

Notes

[1] This observation was made as part of the DD program # 16009.

More information

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international collaboration between ESA and NASA.

Photo credit: NASA, ESA, D. Jewitt (UCLA)

Links

Contacts

David Jewitt
UCLA, Los Angeles, California
USA
Email: djewitt @ gmail.com

Stuart Wolpert
UCLA, Los Angeles, California
USA
Email: [email protected]

Bethany Downer
ESA / Hubble, Public Information Officer
Garching, Germany
E-Mail: [email protected]


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