We now know where another mysterious interstellar visitor has come from

Astronomers from around the world have taken a closer look at another space rock that has arrived in our Solar System. The result of their hard work is a calculation that shows where this fascinating object could have come from.

Recall that it all started on August 30, when Gennadin Borisov, an astronomer at the Crimean Astronomical Observatory, spotted a strange object in the sky with an unusual orbit. The celestial body was identified as 2I/Borisov. The latest observations revealed that the comet is moving at a tremendous speed and has a hyperbolic orbit. This means one thing, it comes from an alien system about which we have absolutely no information.

A little more light was shed on this fascinating object by the Gemini Space Observatory, located in Hawaii. Astronomers have taken the first color images of the space rock using two powerful 8.1-metre optical telescopes. Although we can’t see much of its details in these images, that will soon change as the object approaches our planet and also the Sun in the coming weeks.

The first ever comet observed by us, coming from outside the Solar System, will fly by at a distance of slightly more than 2 astronomical units from the Sun on December 8, and will approach our planet at a distance of about 1.9 astronomical units on December 28. At that time, we should make the most accurate observations of this object.

Polish researchers from the Astronomical Observatory of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan and the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences (SRC PAS) are leading the way in the research on 2I/Borisov. According to the researchers, the object’s orbit indicates that it comes from the Kruger 60 system. It is located in the constellation Cepheus. It is a system of two red dwarfs that orbit each other with a period of about 45 years. They are located about 13 light years from Earth and there may be planets. The object took about a million years to reach the solar system from there.

Astronomers stress that certainty about the object’s origin will appear by the end of the year. It will then fly through the most important part of the Solar System, including past the Sun and Earth, so that will be the best time to gather as much information as possible. 2I/Borisov is already the second object in the history of space exploration that we know is not from the Solar System. The first was a famous asteroid called Oumuamua. It was discovered in the fall of 2017 and is currently moving away from the Sun.

To astronomers, such objects fire the imagination. They dream of using them as a free means of transport/drive for probes and as a base for various research missions. Thanks to them we will be able to learn the secrets of objects not only located in e.g. the Kuiper Belt, but also in the Oort Cloud, and one day even alien planetary systems.

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