Back in 2019, a mysterious comet from a faraway star system whizzed by Earth. At first glance, the visitor, named 2I/Borisov, seemed to be rather ordinary, but new research has since revealed signs that it’s far from an average comet.
Now, two research studies released in March 2021 have shed new light on our visitor, and helped unveil information about our own solar system.
When Borisov was first sighted by an amateur astronomer, initial data suggested it was a typical comet. Meaning it was made of things like ice, dust, and gassy materials that researchers had all seen before in our solar system.
Soon after its finding, NASA’s Scout system at JPL automatically identified the comet as a potentially interstellar object. This software alerted astronomers across the world and they quickly pointed their instruments toward Borisov to learn more.
But what exactly were these astronomers looking for in this alien comet?
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Interstellar comet Borisov is the most pristine space object ever seen
" It was the second interstellar object ever discovered after the asteroid ‘Oumuamua, which was spotted on its way out of the solar system, giving astronomers very little time to study it. Because Borisov was spotted earlier in its journey through the solar system, we were able to observe it in more detail."
The Age of Interstellar Visitors
"It sounds almost like science fiction: a tiny world that formed around another star, visiting our cosmic neighborhood for us to study. And yet that’s exactly what has happened, twice now as of the last few months. It will only happen more often this decade."
An Interstellar Visitor Had a Sad Story to Tell
"Borisov shows very few signs of another sunny encounter in its journey through space. For a comet to be as unblemished as this one means it has been extremely alone."
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