Interstellar Comet Borisov Just Lost a Chunk

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Interstellar Comet Borisov Just Lost a Chunk

A Hubble Space Telescope image showing a fragment from Comet 2I / Borisov

A Hubble Space Telescope image showing a fragment from Comet 2I / Borisov
Statue: David Jewitt

Recent images of the second interstellar comet to have known visited the solar system seems to reveal a fragment or fragments that fall from the core.

Comet 2I / Borisov arrived with much fanfare late last summer when scientists realized it had a hyperbolic orbit – implying that it had a visitor from outside the solar system. But unlike the first known visitor, Borsiov made a closer inspection possible while it revolves around the sun. Recent observations have shown that it loses matter.

“We’ve been looking at this thing with space telescopes for months since it was discovered,” UCLA astronomer David Jewitt told Gizmodo. “We just noticed this change in appearance – which has been split into two parts this week – this week.”

An image that Jewitt shows on the Telegram from Astronomer yesterday Taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, the comet shows up in one piece as early as March 23 but seems to split on March 28 in two pieces.

But the comet probably hasn’t broken in two, Jewitt said. Other comets have changed appearance similar before; Borisov probably just lost a fragment of less than 1 percent of its mass. However, that small fragment is extremely clear, astronomers think is due to the fact that it was a previously undiscovered icy stretch that has now become extremely active due to energy from the sun.

Jewitt is not the only team to observe fragmentation of the comet. Another Telegram message from an astronomer yesterday also reported evidence that a small fragment separated from the rock. AAll of this follows a few eruptions of the comet that struck March 12 through a team of astronomers in Poland.

Amateur onestroneer Gennady Borisov spotted first this one interstellar visitor on August 30 last year, and scientists soon confirmed it as the second interstellar object (the first is from 2017 “Oumuamua). But unlike the rocky “Oumuamua,” Comet Borisov watched surprisingly known– that is, like an icy comet of the solar system with a cloud called a coma and tail that happened to arrive from outside the solar system.

Scientists have tracked the object using space-based telescopes since it came closest to the sun in December. They’ve already learned more about it, Jewitt said. Initial estimates suggested that Borisov was tall (maybe 8 miles away), but later observations have linked her instead beam a few hundred meters. It has a composition similar to solar system comets, in which water ice quickly turns into gas. But, Jewitt said, it appears to have larger dust grains and more carbon monoxide than solar system comets. Carbon monoxide is a volatile element that would otherwise be sublimemate from the surface of the comet by solar energy but not in the case of Borisov. “This thing has been in a cold place for a long time,” said Jewitt.

Does this mean that Borisov is breaking up? It is not clear yet. Jewitt hopes so – it would be a cool show, for example, but it is would also provide knowledge about the composition of his core and others Physical Characteristics.

Scientists continue to track Comet Borisov. We hope it also breaks into pieces.

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