A new image of interstellar comet Borisov showing its ‘ghostly’ 100,000-mile-long tail, has been captured by astronomers.
The comet, which is named after Crimean astronomer Gennady Borisov who discovered it earlier this year, will pass within around 190 million miles of the Earth in early December.
The comet’s tail is nearly 100,000 miles long – around 14 times the size of the Earth – according to Pieter van Dokkum from the Yale University team that captured the image.
‘It’s humbling to realise how small Earth is next to this visitor from another system,’ he said.
A team from Yale University captured this ‘close-up’ image of the comet on the 24th of November using the Keck Observatory’s low-resolution imaging spectrometer
The team from Yale University captured the ‘close-up’ image of the comet on the 24th of November using the Keck Observatory’s low-resolution imaging spectrometer.
The comet is believed to have come from a twin star system dubbed ‘Kruger 60’ that lies 13 light years away from Earth, according to experts from the Polish Academy of Sciences.
Researchers believe 21/Borisov was ejected into interstellar space as a consequence of a near-collision with a planet in its original star system.
It appears to have a reddish colour, a dust-dominated form, and a solid nucleus that is around one mile in diameter.
On October 10, experts announced that they had found that 2I/Borisov had come from a twin star system dubbed ‘Kruger 60’, pictured in an artist’s impression, that lies 13 light years away
The comet’s tail, shown in the new image, is nearly 100,000 miles long, which is 14 times the size of Earth, according to Dr Pieter van Dokkum from the Yale team as seen in this side by side image with the Earth
For astronomers, the appeal of investigating interstellar visitors like 2I/Borisov and 1I/Oumuamua comes in the potential to study pieces of solar systems beyond our own in far closer detail than would otherwise be possible.
For example, anything scientists learn about Borisov has the potential to shine light on the make-up of its home star system Kruger 60.
‘Astronomers are taking advantage of the visit, using telescopes to obtain information about the building blocks of planets in systems other than our own’, says Dr Gregory Laughlin, another member of the Yale team.
The comet is evaporating as it gets closer to the sun, releasing gas and fine dust in its tail due to the warming effects from our star.
The latest findings suggest that water-rich comets are not unique to the Solar System and that other star systems likely formed through similar processes
The solid nucleus of the comet is only about a mile wide. As it began reacting to the Sun’s warming effect, the comet has taken on a “ghostly” appearance.
Borisov is the second-known visitor from outside our solar system — joining the cigar-shaped asteroid 1I/Oumuamua, which was detected on October 19, 2017.
Every comet seen prior to 2I/Borisov had come from one of two places within the solar system.
They have either come from the Kuiper belt, the ring of small bodies orbiting the Sun beyond Neptune, or the Oort cloud, the enormous spherical collection of icy comets and planetesimals that lies around a light-year out from the Sun.
Borisov will leave the solar system in the direction of the constellation of Telescopium.
2I/Borisov is the second-known visitor from outside our solar system — joining the cigar-shaped asteroid 1I/’Oumuamua, which was detected on October 19, 2017
Following the discovery of Oumuamua in 2017, astronomers Piotr Guzik and Michal Drahus of Poland’s Jagiellonian University and colleagues wrote a computer program to scan data on newly-discovered asteroids and comets for interstellar visitors.
It does this by looking for the distinctive, strongly-open orbital paths as they travel across our solar system.
The software — dubbed ‘Interstellar Crusher’ — sent an alert to the team on September 8, 2019, when it found a potential match.
This was in a comet discovered by Crimea-based amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov, who spotted the object using a telescope on August 30.
WHAT IS 2I/BORISOV?
2I/Borisov is a comet that came from outside the solar system.
It is believed to have a core that is around 0.9–4.1 miles (1.4–6.6 kilometres) in diameter.
The interstellar comet 2I/Borisov, pictured, which is currently visiting our solar system is harbouring water that came from another star system, a study has found
The comet was spotted by amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov from Crimea’s MARGOT observatory on August 30, 2019.
It will make its closest pass to the Sun on December 8, 2019 — but will not get close to any of the planets in the solar system.
2I/Borisov will leave the solar system in the direction of the constellation of Telescopium.
According to Polish researchers, it likely originated from the binary red dwarf star system Kruger 60.
The comet is only the second interstellar visit to have been spotted.
The first was the cigar-shaped asteroid 1I/’Oumuamua, which was detected on October 19, 2017.