Interstellar Gatecrasher 2I / Borisov is no ordinary comet


          Scientists have discovered a comet called 2I / Borisov which is surprisingly different in its composition from comets       

The interstellar comet 2I / Borisov travels our solar system in an artist's impression obtained by Reuters. PHOTO: REUTERS

The interstellar comet 2I / Borisov travels our solar system in an artist's impression obtained by Reuters. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON: Scientists have discovered that a comet called 2I / Borisov, only the second interstellar object ever detected crossing the solar system, is surprisingly different in composition from comets from our celestial neighborhood.

The gas from 2I / Borisov contained much more carbon monoxide than the comets formed in our solar system – indicating that the object had large concentrations of carbon monoxide ice, researchers said Monday.

Carbon monoxide, toxic to humans, is common as a gas in space and only forms as ice in the coldest places. The presence of so much carbon monoxide, the researchers suggest, suggests that 2I / Borisov formed in a different way from comets in our solar system – in a very cold outer region of its original star system or around it. a star colder than the sun.

Comets are basically dirty snowballs made up of frozen gases, rocks and dust orbiting the stars.

“We like to refer to 2I / Borisov as a snowman from a dark, cold place,” said planetologist Dennis Bodewits of Auburn University in Alabama, lead author of one of two 2I / studies. Borisov published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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“Comets are remnants of the time when the planet was formed. For the first time, we were able to measure the chemical composition of such a building block from another planetary system as it passed through our own solar system, “added Bodewits.

The comet, detected in August 2019 by amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov and estimated to be about six tenths of a mile wide, zoomed into interstellar space after being ejected from its original star system.

He was born a long time ago in a spinning disk of gas and dust surrounding a newly formed star in a place that must have been rich in carbon monoxide, said Bodewits. This star may have been what is called an M dwarf, much smaller and cooler than the sun and the smallest type of star known, said Bodewits.

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Scientists initially concluded last year that 2I / Borisov was similar to comets in our solar system, but data from the Hubble Space Telescope and an observatory in Chile have revealed its differences.

Researchers have also discovered an abundance of hydrogen cyanide at levels similar to the comets in our solar system.

“This shows that 2I / Borisov is not a completely foreign object, and confirms a certain similarity with our” normal “comets, so the processes which shaped it are comparable to the way our own comets were formed”, said Martin Cordiner, an astrobiologist working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and lead author of the other study.

The only other interstellar visitor to our solar system was a cigar-shaped rocky object called “Oumuamua spotted in 2017.






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