Astronomers think they’ve detected an interstellar object approaching our solar system.
Called “C/2019 Q4” (formerly “gb00234”), the object appears to be following a path originating from outside the solar system. It may pass near Mars in October.
This would be only the second interstellar object ever observed in our solar system. 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.
If C/2019 Q4 is indeed interstellar, scientists should be able to study the object until it grows too dim to see in early 2021.
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Astronomers may have spotted the second object ever to visit our solar system from another star system. The object may even fly near Mars later this year, though it’s still far away.
The scientists’ hunch is strong but not yet certain: Right now, the chances are much higher that the object, known as “C/2019 Q4” (formerly “gb00234”), is interstellar, rather than an asteroid or comet from within the solar system.
The first such interstellar object ever detected — the mysterious and controversial cigar-shaped space rock ‘Oumuamua — zoomed through our solar system in 2017.
Amateur Ukrainian astronomer Gennady Borisov may have been the first to spot C/2019 Q4 in the sky on August 30. It hasn’t yet entered our solar system, but astronomers have been collecting data in hopes of plotting the object’s path through space and figuring out where it came from.
“It’s so exciting, we’re basically looking away from all of our other projects right now,” Olivier Hainaut, an astronomer with the European Southern Observatory, told Business Insider on Wednesday. Hainaut was part of a global team of astronomers that studied ‘Oumuamua as it passed through the solar system two years ago.
“The main difference from ‘Oumuamua and this one is that we got it a long, long time in advance, ” he added. “Now astronomers are much more prepared.”
Early images suggest C/2019 Q4 is followed by a small tail or halo of dust. That’s a distinct trait of comets — they hold ice that gets heated up by nearby stars, which leads them to shoot out gas and grit into space. The dust could make C/2019 Q4 simpler to track than ‘Oumuamua, since dust brightly reflects sunlight.
This could also allow scientists to more easily study the object’s composition, since telescope instruments can “taste” light to look for chemical signatures.
“Here we have something that was born around another star and traveling toward us. It’s the next-best thing to sending a probe to a different solar system,” Hainaut said.
Astronomers are preparing to watch the object with as many telescopes as possible
Astronomers around the globe are grabbing every telescope available to plot C/2019 Q4’s path through space. The goal: See if the object has an orbit that’s elliptical (oval-shaped and around the sun) or hyperbolic (checkmark-shaped, and on an open-ended trajectory).
As of now, it seems much more likely …read more
Source:: Businessinsider – Tech