Newfound Comet Likely an 'Interstellar Visitor,' Russian Scientists Say

1st Photo of Interstellar Comet Reveals Its Fuzzy Tail

New comet likely visitor from another solar system

According to astronomy software developer Bill Gray, the comet will fly through the solar system for about six months. It may pass near Mars in October. The study of exoplanets has revealed that other solar systems can be quite different from our own, and interstellar interlopers can help reveal more about these far-off realms. The first such visitor,'Oumuamua, took scientists by surprise in 2017. This time, they're getting ready to watch C/2019 Q4 with "everything" they can, one astronomer said.

For more stories go to It is thought to be a comet and was discovered by an amateur astronomer. Today, the Minor Planet Center at the Center for Astrophysics released an official circular on the object, now provisionally called C/2019 Q4 (Borisov).

They found that the object is well outside the ecliptic (the plane of the Earth's orbit around the Sun) and is headed for the inner solar system at an angle of 40° and a present speed of 93,000 miles per hour (15,000 km/h).

Gennady Borisov of Crimea spotted the interstellar space rock on August 30.

While the object's origin hasn't officially been confirmed, astronomers will get a closer look at it when it enters the inner section of the solar system on October 26.

Its early sighting should enable astronomers to make exciting observations about it.

"We get to see one little bit of another solar system", Michele Bannister, an astronomer at Queen's University Belfast, tells National Geographic. "Now astronomers are much more prepared".

'We don't know how bright it's going to be. They labeled it C/2019 Q4.

With more observations of the object, scientists have begun calculating the shape of its orbit. This would indicate, according to expert opinion, that it has its origins from well outside our solar system.

The Very Large Telescope (VLT) is located in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile.

NASA said that astronomers will continue collect observations to further characterize the comet's physical properties (size, rotation, etc.) and also continue to better identify its trajectory. But the current measurements of C/2019 Q4's trajectory suggest that such an encounter in the object's past is impossible.

NASA JPL added that C/2019 Q4 is likely a comet "due to its fuzzy appearance, which indicates that the object has a central icy body that is producing a surrounding cloud of dust and particles as it approaches the Sun and heats up".

That's typically what you see coming out the back of a comet, though scientists say they can't be sure that's definitely what the object is.

This rough simulation shows C/2019 Q4's possible orbital path (green) through the solar system.

Distances in the solar system can be measured in astronomical units (AU), roughly the distance between the Earth and the sun.

In an interview with Business insider, Oliver Hainaut, the astronomer who studied the first asteroid said, "We had to scramble for telescope time", Hainaut said. "This time, we're ready". It will be visible through professional telescopes for months.

It turned out to be most likely a comet, but if C/2019 Q4 is confirmed it also illustrates the principle that finding the first example of a thing is the hardest.

The vast majority of asteroids and comets that astronomers have tracked to date follow an elliptical orbit: oval or egg-shaped or almost circular.

However, because its current position is in line with the Sun, observations are hard for the next couple of months.

If C/2019 Q4 does turn out to be a second interstellar object, that would bode well for a proposed mission Hainaut is working on to send robotic probes into space to intercept future objects like this.

If these objects come every couple of years, on the other hand, astronomers might even be able to get choosy about which object to intercept.

Latest News