Newly Discovered Comet Is Likely From Another Solar System

Astronomers Believe They Have Discovered New Interstellar Object

Scout is created to flag any asteroids that may pose a hazard to the Earth, but it can also flag potential interstellar objects, like C/2019 Q4.

After the initial detection, NASA's Scout system (located at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California) automatically flagged the object as possibly interstellar. The official confirmation that this object - labled C/2019 Q4 - is interstellar has not yet been made, but if it is, it would be only the second such object detected. And now there are two. But the current measurements of C/2019 Q4's trajectory suggest that such an encounter in the object's past is impossible.

On August 30, Gennady Borisov spotted a new comet while at the MARGO observatory in Crimea. The object, a comet named C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), was recently verified by the Minor Planet Center. Formally named C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), the object appears to have come from outside our solar system. The object's trajectory was then looked at in more detail by Davide Farnocchia of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, and ESA's Near-Earth Object Coordination Center in Frascati, Italy.

The comet, which is traveling at 93,000 miles per hour, is following a trajectory that doesn't orbit the sun, so researchers believe it could have come from beyond the solar system.

Its current velocity is high-about 93,000 miles per hour, well above what is typical of objects orbiting the Sun at that distance, according to NASA scientist Davide Farnocchia.

"So the question we'll be wanting to answer is: what's the composition of the coma - the fuzzy bit around the comet core".

"The main difference from 'Oumuamua and this one is that we got it a long, long time in advance, " he added. Its orbit resembles the orbits of long-period comets.

In 2017, astronomers discovered the unusual, oblong object-with characteristics of an asteroid and a comet-nicknaming it 'Oumuamua, which translates to "scout" in Hawaiian.

"Established" is a strong word, and our guess is that not every astronomer will agree with it. And of course science fiction fans, like me, are hoping it's something more exciting than a comet, even a (likely) interstellar one.

The object will pass Mars and if it is an interstellar object then scientists will be able to study it till it leaves our solar system in 2021. In the months that followed it's detection, 'Oumuamua's behavior baffled astronomers leading some to view the cosmic prodigy as an alien probe. 'Oumuamua went on its way with many mysteries still unsolved, just as this object will reach its closest point to our sun - its perihelion - on December 8, 2019, at a distance of about 190 million miles (300 million km).

Although many astronomers are excited about C/2019 Q4, more work has to be done to confirm it as interstellar.

The object will peak in brightness in mid-December and continue to be observable with moderate-size telescopes until April 2020.

Professional stargazer Robert Weryk first spotted the interstellar traveller in October, 2017 at the University of Hawaii's Haleakala Observatory. Astronomers use a measurement called eccentricity to determine how circular an object's orbit is: An eccentricity of 0 is perfectly circular, while an eccentricity of 1 is highly elliptical, and anything greater than is hyperbolic.

If you did read it ... you know why I (longingly) mention that quote! The dust could make C/2019 Q4 simpler to track than 'Oumuamua, since dust brightly reflects sunlight.

'Oumuamua only had a quick visit with us in 2017.

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