Comet C/2019 Q4 as observed by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii on 10 September. Credit: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope
Just passing through? A newly discovered comet, designated C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), likely came into the solar system from interstellar space, researchers say. Its origin is not yet confirmed, but it appears to be moving too fast to be captured by the Sun, indicating the object likely will sail back out of the solar system after reaching perihelion in December, continuing its lonely voyage between the stars.
If confirmed, the comet would be only the second such interstellar visitor discovered to date, coming nearly two years after the discovery of the unusual cigar-shaped object known as ‘Oumuamua in October 2017.
C/2019 Q4, discovered 30 August by Gennady Borisov of the MARGO observatory in Nauchnij, Crimea, is currently 420 million kilometres (260 million miles) from the Sun, racing inward at some 150,000 kilometres per hour (93,000 mph) on a trajectory tilted about 40 degrees to the plane of the ecliptic. It will reach its closest point to the Sun on 8 December at a distance of about 300 million kilometres (190 million miles), well beyond the orbit of Mars.
“The comet’s current velocity is high, ...