Pictures captured by the Hubble Space Telescope show the second known interstellar object, 2I/Borisov, in all its cometary glory.
The images were taken by the telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 on Oct. 12, when 2I/Borisov was 260 million miles from Earth. The object was discovered by Crimean amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov in August, and since then its path has been traced to far beyond our solar system.
2I/Borisov is currently zooming through our celestial neighborhood at a speed of 110,000 mph. The comet won’t come any closer than 180 million miles to us, with the closest approach expected on Dec. 7 — and it’s on a course to leave our solar system for good.
The next few weeks afford a golden opportunity to study one of the most alien objects ever known to come this close. And based on the analysis conducted to date, 2I/Borisov looks surprisingly familiar. The shape of the nucleus can’t be made out in the Hubble images, but it has the characteristic fuzzy look and chemical composition associated with comets in our own solar system.
“Though another star system could be quite different from our own, the fact that the comet’s properties appear to be very ...