On August 30, astronomers have found an object, C/2019 Q4, that appears to have originated from outside the interstellar space.

If confirmed C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) will be the second interstellar object ever detected, after ‘Oumuamua in 2017.

Gennady Borisov at the MARGO observatory in Nauchnij, Crimea, discovered the comet on Aug. 30, 2019.

No one knows what the object really looks like. However, the speed and trajectory of the comet suggest that it came from outside the solar system.

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C/2019 Q4 is currently 260 million miles (420 million kilometers) away from the Sun and is hurtling toward the inner solar system. The comet will enter the inner solar system on Oct. 26 from above at roughly a 40-degree angle relative to the ecliptic plane. However, it will remain farther than the orbit of Mars. The space rock is traveling at a speed of 93,000 mph (150,000 km/h).

“The comet’s current velocity is high, about 93,000 mph (150,000 kph), which is well above the typical velocities of objects orbiting the Sun at that distance,” said Farnocchia. “The high velocity indicates not only that the object likely originated from outside our solar system, but also that it will leave and head back to interstellar space.”

This illustration depicts Comet C/2019 Q4’s trajectory. Deemed a possible interstellar object, it will approach no closer to Earth than about 190 million miles (300 million kilometers).
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Its fuzzy appearance suggested C/2019 Q4 is a comet. This indicates that the object has an icy nucleus that is producing a surrounding cloud of dust and particles as it approaches the Sun and heats up. The nucleus might be somewhere between 1.2 and 10 miles (2 and 16 km) in diameter.

However, because the comet is currently positioned in line with the Sun, astronomers will find it hard to observe it for the next couple of months.

“The object will peak in brightness in mid-December and continue to be observable with moderate-size telescopes until April 2020,” said Farnocchia. “After that, it will only be observable with larger professional telescopes through October 2020.”

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