Interstellar Comet 2I/Borisov Is the Length of 14 Earths – And Will Speed Past the Sun Later This Week

Wednesday, 04 December 2019 - 9:23AM
Astronomy
Solar System
Wednesday, 04 December 2019 - 9:23AM
Interstellar Comet 2I/Borisov Is the Length of 14 Earths – And Will Speed Past the Sun Later This Week
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The second interstellar visitor to our solar system is closing in on the Sun, according to reports from Universe Today. Comet 2I/Borisov is speeding towards our star for what will likely be the only time in history and, as astronomers track it across the skies, we have learned more about this visitor from another star system.


Researchers at Yale University captured what is currently the clearest photo we have of the comet. There's no way around this – 2I/Borisov is massive. Its tail stretches for quite literally 100,000 miles. That's as long as fourteen Earths. The solid core, according to Yale, is barely a mile in diameter. (Oh, and it's all partially composed of cyanide.) We should learn more as scientists continue to study the comet during its closest approach to Earth later this month.


Comet 2I/Borisov is expected to draw near to our host star this Sunday, December 8th. Later, on December 28th, it will pass within 190 million miles of Earth, breezing by at a safe distance outside the orbit of Mars.


The first interstellar object – 'Oumuamua – captured the world's imagination when it whizzed by our solar system in 2017. We still don't quite know what it was. Scientists originally classified it as a comet, but it lacked a comet's signature tail. Some experts theorized that it was an asteroid, while still others believed it might be a gigantic cluster of gravitationally-bound debris hurtling through space.


We still don't know, and we never will – which is why studying these objects as closely as possible during the brief time they're here is so important. It's literally once-in-a-lifetime research.


With another interstellar object arriving so soon in the wake of 'Oumuamua, you wonder about the sudden uptick in far-flung visitors. Why so many, so close together? Why now? Have we lacked the technology to track them, or were we simply not paying enough attention?


According to Malena Rice, an astronomy Ph.D. candidate at Yale speaking in a separate release, "There should be a lot of this material floating around…So much more data will be coming out soon, thanks to new telescopes coming online. We won't have to speculate."


We're certainly paying attention now.
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