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Coming attraction: Evidence is mounting for detection of a second interstellar visitor

13 Sep 2019, 17:59 UTC
Coming attraction: Evidence is mounting for detection of a second interstellar visitor
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Comet C/2019 Q4 takes on a fuzzy appearance with the hint of a tail in an image captured by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Hawaii’s Big Island on Sept. 10. (CHFT Photo via NASA)
Two years after astronomers made their first detection of a celestial object that came into our solar system from the neighborhood of another star, they think they’ve spotted another one.
The newly discovered comet, known as C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), was discovered on Aug. 30 by Gennady Borisov at the MARGO observatory in Crimea, a region that’s contested by Ukraine and Russia.
Its origin hasn’t yet been fully confirmed, but each night brings further evidence that its path traces back to far beyond our solar system.
In a Thursday update, NASA reports that C/2019 Q4 is 260 million miles from the sun and will reach its closest point to the sun on Dec. 8, at a distance of about 180 million miles. That’s tens of millions of miles beyond the orbit of Mars.
“The comet’s current velocity is high, about 93,000 mph, which is well above the typical velocities of objects orbiting the sun at that distance,” said Davide Farnocchia of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at ...

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