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Newly Discovered Comet Is Likely Interstellar Visitor

14 Sep 2019, 10:01 UTC
Newly Discovered Comet Is Likely Interstellar Visitor
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Comet C/2019 Q4 as imaged by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Hawaii’s Big Island on Sept. 10, 2019. (Credits: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A newly discovered comet has excited the astronomical community this week because it appears to have originated from outside the solar system. The object — designated C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) — was discovered on Aug. 30, 2019, by Gennady Borisov at the MARGO observatory in Nauchnij, Crimea. The official confirmation that comet C/2019 Q4 is an interstellar comet has not yet been made, but if it is interstellar, it would be only the second such object detected. The first, ‘Oumuamua, was observed and confirmed in October 2017.

The new comet, C/2019 Q4, is still inbound toward the Sun, but it will remain farther than the orbit of Mars and will approach no closer to Earth than about 190 million miles (300 million kilometers).

After the initial detections of the comet, Scout system,
which is located at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena,
California, automatically flagged the object as possibly being
interstellar. Davide Farnocchia of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies
at JPL worked with astronomers and the European Space Agency’s
Near-Earth ...

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