It's Official! Suspected Interstellar Comet Borisov Is from Beyond Our Solar System

Pablo Tucker
September 26, 2019

A newly discovered comet that may have originated outside our Solar System has an official title. Because the comet was spotted relatively early in its trip through our system, researchers will have a chance to continue to observe it for many months to come.

The 2I represents that it's the second interstellar object to be spotted in our solar system.It is named after the astronomer who first spotted the object on 30 August 2019, Gennady Borisov. And that's where the second part of this object's name comes in - the object Borisov was tracking through his homemade 0.65 meter telescope looked like a comet, with a distinctive haze, or "coma". Experts from the Minor Planet Center at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) have therefore assigned the permanent interstellar designation 2I to it, and members of the IAU Working Group for Small Body Nomenclature have chose to retain the name Borisov for the permanent designation.

Here's what we know about 2I/Borisov so far: although it's hard to measure the size of comets due to their "coma" (which is the cloud of dust and gas surrounding its nucleus that gives comets their characteristically fuzzy appearance) 2I/Borisov is estimated to span between 1.2 to 10 miles across according to observations lead by Karen Meech at the University of Hawaii.

Estimates of the sizes of comets are hard because the small cometary nucleus is embedded in the coma, but, from the observed brightness, 2I/Borisov appears to be around a few kilometres in diameter. In this case, 2I/Borisov will make its closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) on December 7, 2019, after which time it will make its way back into interstellar space, never to return again.

The scientists would like to know why interstellar objects have not been found before, and at what expected rate they appear in the inner solar system.

"The item will peak in brightness in mid-December and keep on to be observable with moderate-sizing telescopes until finally April 2020", reported Farnocchia. That said, there's an expectation now among astronomers that more interstellar objects await discovery.

Astronomers are eagerly observing this object, which will be continuously observable for many months, a period longer than that of its predecessor, 1I/'Oumuamua.

The Gran Telescopio Canarias said the results of this research "clearly show that comets in other planetary systems can be similar to those of the Solar System".

This new interstellar visitor raises intriguing questions: Why have interstellar objects not been discovered before?

It has been named 2I/Borisov by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and the surface features on them. He later became an engineer creating professional telescopes that work around the world, according to Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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