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We could hunt an interstellar comet until 2045

We could take a closer look at the latest interstellar interleaver of our solar system in a quarter of a century, a new study suggests.

At the end of last month, Russian amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov discovered a comet appearing from far away to visit. The object's strange trajectory and enormous velocity, known as comet C / 2019 Q4 (Borisov) strongly suggests that it was born more of a star other than our own sun, scientists say.

This comet is the third potential interstellar visitor we know – and all have been discovered in the last two years.

Related: Interstellar Comet: Here's why scientists are so turned on

The first was 'Oumuamua that by the inner solar system zoomed in in fall 201

7. & # 39; Oumuamua is intriguing for many reasons beyond its pioneering status (and the fact that it is the only one of the three that has been confirmed to be an interstellar object). For example, Oumuamua is oddly shaped – its contours resemble those of a pancake or cigar – and it showed a non-gravitational acceleration as it traveled through the backyard of the earth. (That is, it moved in a way that has nothing to do with the tugs of the Sun, Jupiter, or other bodies.)

Such movement may be caused by comet outgassing, but astronomers have never seen a tail from O Oumuamua or another obvious comet streamed properties. The astronomers of Harvard University, Shmuel Bialy and Avi Loeb, have suggested that 'Oumuamua could actually be an alien spacecraft – especially one equipped with a light sail, its use of sunlight pressure could explain strange movement of the object. [19659002] Loeb was involved in the discovery of a second potential interstellar visitor: a small meteor that exploded in the sky in January 2014 near Papua New Guinea. Loeb and Harvard student Amir Siraj announced earlier this year in an unpublished pre-printed on the probable exotic origin of this object. They based their conclusion on the trajectory of the meteor they reconstructed after examining the fireball database compiled by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).

Like Comet C / 2019 Q4 (Borisov), the 3-foot (1 meter) Meteor remains a potential interstate visitor and not a confirmed one for the time being. Siraj and Loeb have not been able to publish their article yet, mainly because the CNEOS database does not report measurement errors. (This information is classified as it might reveal details of the state sensors used to detect fireballs.) Siraj and Loeb have nailed the error bars to people with the proper security clearance, and the magazine they submitted the paper to tries to Find Something Like That, Siraj said to Space.com last month.]

Shortly after Oumuamua's arrival, researchers around the world began exploring the possibility of a Probe to investigate the object close The information gathered from such a mission could provide important insights into the evolution and evolution of other solar systems, and may shed light on whether or not objects like Oumuamua are often the building blocks Of life or even life itself . From place to place have knowledge c

A team working on the feasibility of an Oumuamua mission was led by Andreas Hein of the Interstellar Studies Initiative in England. Hein and his team found that people could actually send a plane to fly past the object with the latest technology.

For example, a probe the size of the NASA spacecraft New Horizons could launch in 2021 towards & # 39; oumuamua on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, and 2049 after & # 39; Oumuamua arrive so the researchers. The journey would be awkward and would include fly-bys of Jupiter and Saturn as well as a close-up maneuver.

Now Hein and some members of the same team have been investigating the prospect of comet C / 2019 Q4 (Borisov). Probe. Their new study found that such a fly-by mission was indeed feasible, but a much smaller spaceship would have to be used than a trip to Oumuamua.

Related: & # 39; oumuamua: Our first known interstellar visitor explained in photos

We were able to get a 6.6-lb. Hein and his colleagues reported in an article that they had recently published on the online preprint site arXiv.org that they were heading for the comet in 2030 with NASA's giant Space Launch System. The small ship would arrive at its destination in 2045 after conducting a Jupiter flyby and a maneuver near the Sun.

Interestingly enough, we just missed the opportunity to send a much more capable ship to Borisov. Orbital dynamics allow a 2-ton spaceship to launch the comet on a Falcon Heavy – if this launch had taken place in July 2018, the researchers noted.

It would of course be fascinating to see every interstellar object up close. But Hein said that if he had to choose a passing destination, he would be called & # 39; Oumuamua & # 39; walk.

"Given what we know, I would prefer 'Oumuamua at the moment," he said via e-mail to Space.com. "Regarding the degree of weirdness, Oumuamua is definitely beating C / 2019 Q4 (Borisov) at the moment, and the strange cigar-like shape and mysterious acceleration make us curious to find out more."

"However, if we have more data on C / 2019 Q4 (Borisov) on telescope observations, things could change," Hein added. "In the next few days or weeks, we may also discover oddities with this object." Another reason for catching & # 39; oumuamua & # 39; is that it's a bit easier to reach than C / 2019 Q4 (Borisov), as it moves a little slower (26.3 km / s outside the solar system towards about 30 km / s). "

We may never send a spaceship to one of the two objects. But Hein said it's important to know that we can, especially as Borisov is probably not the last interstellar visitor we meet. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, due to go online next year, is likely to find a significant number of itself .

"We want to show the space and science community that we have the technology to develop missions into interstellar objects if we want," said Hein. "The fact that we were able to prove the technical feasibility of sending a spacecraft to both discovered objects makes it very likely that the next object can be reached."

And only using current technology. There are potential breakthroughs on the horizon that could make exploration of Oumuamua and his relatives a fairly simple affair. For example, if the interstellar flying project Breakthrough Starshot goes into effect as planned, in a few decades humanity may begin to greet overlapping rocks with swarms of nano airplanes that will be flying out to their destinations in a matter of days ,

Mike Walls' book on the search for the foreign life " Out There " (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate ) has appeared. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall . Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook .

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