Hawaiian observatory captures closeup of interstellar comet

Pablo Tucker
November 28, 2019

Yet another interstellar visitor has been found out to travel a huge distance to the planets of our own solar system.

According to the astronomers, the "dirty snowball" nucleus of the comet (deep in the core of the bright white dot in the image above) is only about 1.6 kilometres wide.

The resulting image is the closest look yet at the interstellar comet since it was discovered last summer.

Since first spotted at the end of August, by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov, our views of Comet C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), aka 2I/Borisov, have grown from a tiny smudge to this latest image. Still, astronomers are capturing unbelievable new views of this visitor, using the very best telescopes available.


Pieter van Dokkum, Cheng-Han Hsieh, Shany Danieli, and Gregory Laughlin snapped the image on November 24 using the W.M. Keck Observatory's Low-Resolution Imaging Spectrometer in Hawaii.

Side trajectory, 2I / Borisov should get closer to the Sun in early December and the Earth at the end of the year, less than 190 million kilometers away.

The image taken by astronomers show the comet's tail, which is nearly 100,000 miles long - roughly 14 times the size of Earth.

The new photo reveals the comet's impressive tail, which extends for almost 100,000 miles.


The problem with Oumuamua is that, on the day of its discovery, the object was already on the way back, thus minimizing our chances of being able to study and photograph it. Comet 2I / Borisov is now on an incoming trajectory. As it began reacting to the sun's warming effect, 21/Borisov has taken on a "ghostly" appearance, the scientists said.

21/Borisov is only the second known astral object to have passed through our solar system.

"It's humbling to realize how small Earth is next to this visitor from another solar system", Pieter van Dokkum, one of the astronomers involved in the project, said in a statement.

As the temperature rises, icy material on the comet's surface evaporates creating a vast tail of gas and fine dust which extends for around 100,000 miles-around 13 times the diameter of the Earth.


Outside of its hyperbolic orbit, the comet is very similar to those we find in our own solar system.

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