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2I/Borisov: Naming the Interstellar Visitor

24 Sep 2019, 14:50 UTC
2I/Borisov: Naming the Interstellar Visitor
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Congratulations to Gennady Borisov, the Crimean amateur who discovered the object now officially designated as 2I/Borisov (with a 0.65-metre telescope he built himself!). That ‘I’ in the designation points to the object’s interstellar origins, and picks up the nomenclature used with the first interstellar object in our system, 1I/‘Oumuamua. We’ve examined thousands of comets over the years but have found none with an orbit as hyperbolic as 2I/Borisov. That means that while the comet’s trajectory is being affected by the Sun, it’s not going to be captured by it.
What’s ahead: 2I/Borisov reaches perihelion on 7 December 2019, at which point it will be 2 astronomical units from the Sun and also 2 AU from Earth. It reaches its brightest levels in the southern sky in December and January and then heads back out toward the interstellar deep. So far, it appears that 2I/Borisov is a few kilometers in diameter, and we’ve also learned — via the Gran Telescopio Canarias (Canary Islands) — that its spectrum resembles typical cometary nuclei. The new interstellar visitor appears to be more straightforward than 1I/‘Oumuamua.
But considering that 1I/‘Oumuamua appeared a scant two years before 2I/Borisov, the inference is clear that such objects may ...

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