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Sun Sep 29, 2019, 11:22 PM

Scientists detect first gas molecules from an interstellar comet


By David Szondy
September 29, 2019

Astronomers from Europe, the United States, and Chile have identified the first gas molecules from a comet originating from outside the solar system. Using ground-based telescopes trained on the interstellar comet 2I/Borisov as it passes through the inner solar system, the scientists have detected traces of cyanogen in the comet's coma or atmosphere.

First seen by by Gennady Borisov at the MARGO observatory in Nauchnij, Crimea on August 30, 2019, 2I/Borisov is the second interstellar object detected passing through the solar system, but unlike its predecessor, 'Oumuamua, it's been identified as a comet because telescopic images show it to be a small, icy object with a coma of gas that gets larger and denser as it approaches the Sun.

Like 'Oumumua, 2I/Borisov was confirmed within 12 days of discovery as coming from outside the solar system because its trajectory is hyperbolic with a velocity of 93,000 mph (150,000 km/h), as well as being at a very high angle relative to the ecliptic. However, 2I/Borisov is different in that it was detected far enough away on its inboard journey for astronomers to mount a campaign to study it properly.

According to Professor Alan Fitzsimmons of the Astrophysics Research Centre, Queen’s University Belfast, this provides an opportunity to learn about the interstellar comet's composition. Using the William Herschel Telescope on La Palma in the Canary Islands, Fitzsimmons and his colleagues began observations on September 13, but it wasn't until September 20 that the comet was high enough in the morning sky to capture spectrographs of the light coming from it.

More:
https://newatlas.com/space/first-gas-molecules-interstellar-comet-detected/

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