A second interstellar object may have been spotted

A mystery Interstellar Object is about to pay us a visit

A mystery Interstellar Object is about to pay us a visit

The mysterious cigar-shaped projectile known as Oumuamua, formally named object 1I/2017 U1, resembles both a comet and an asteroid, however, it doesn't conform to numerous other defining features usually associated with these objects, including its direction of spin and lack of a tail.

Astronomers are buzzing with excitement this week about a newly discovered object that appears to have come from interstellar space.

An early image of C/2019 Q4 shows that it is followed by a small tail or a halo of dust, which could mean that it is a comet. But this comet will reach its perihelion, or closest flyby of the sun on December 10, which should give the scientific community ample time to at least partially study it and take a peak at what life is like outside of our solar system. With 'Oumuamua, some astronomers speculated that the object might be an alien artifact, perhaps similar to the two Voyager spacecraft that are now hurtling outward away from our solar system, with their golden records attached. The study of exoplanets has revealed that other solar systems can be quite different from our own, and interstellar interlopers can help reveal more about these far-off realms.

Speaking to Forbes, the astronomer said C/2019 Q4 is heading into the solar system and not out of it, like Oumuamua. Astronomers will continue collect observations to further characterize the comet's physical properties (size, rotation, etc.) and also continue to better identify its trajectory. They labeled it C/2019 Q4.

This could also allow scientists to more easily study the object's composition, since telescope instruments can "taste" light to look for chemical signatures.

Oumuamua was already on its way out of the solar system at high speed when astronomers realized what it was.

Such a statement is issued on behalf of the International Astronomical Union by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory when observers have registered enough data about an object to begin calculating its path through space. The second ("likely") interstellar object has been designated C/2019 Q4 (Borisov).

Initially, scientists thought C/2019 Q4 could be one of these objects, but with more observations, it's looking more and more like C/2019 Q4 is interstellar.

He said: "We don't know how bright it's going to be".

The basic plan for Comet Interceptor is that it'll be launched to LaGrange point 2, a point where the gravity of the Earth and sun essentially cancel each other out.

Although many astronomers are excited about C/2019 Q4, more work has to be done to confirm it as interstellar. The closest it will come to Earth is a distance of 190 million miles.

The vast majority of asteroids and comets that astronomers have tracked to date follow an elliptical orbit: oval or egg-shaped or almost circular. There are over hundreds of known comets with hyperbolic orbits that have originated in the Oort Cloud, an icy group of leftover material on the outer edge of the solar system.

However, because its current position is in line with the Sun, observations are hard for the next couple of months. "After that, it will only be observable with larger professional telescopes through October 2020".

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