Remember the mysterious interstellar object ‘Oumuamua?
Back in 2017, astronomers reported spotting something really strange traveling inside our solar system. The Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii observed a mystery object 33,000,000 km from Earth traveling away from the sun.
Although we’ve only managed to obtain an estimated size, between 100 and 1,000 meters, astronomers revealed that the object which would later be denominated ‘Oumuamua, was the first interstellar visitor spotted by humans. In other words, it was an object that had not originated inside our solar system, and most likely traveled for millions of years from its home system.
It came to ours, slingshot around the sun, and started changing speed as it made its way towards the outermost limits of our solar system.
But a couple of things were off according to astronomers. The object showed no signs of a comet coma despite having made a close approach to the Sun but underwent non-gravitational acceleration.
A number of theories were proposed to explain the mysterious acceleration and shape of the object, among which was the theory that ‘Oumumua was actually an alien spacecraft.
The object is now traveling on a route that will see it leave the solar system in around 20,000 years.
The exact planetary system of origin and the time the object has remained traveling amongst the stars are a total enigma.
C/2019 Q4 (Borisov)
Astronomers have now revealed that ‘Oumuamua may not have been alone.
Here's a remarkable animation of #gb00234, which may be our second known interstellar visitor, taken by astronomer Gennady Borisov – who discovered the object.
— Jonathan O’Callaghan (@Astro_Jonny) September 11, 2019
The mystery object dubbed C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) was discovered on August the 30th 2019 by Gennady Borisov using his custom-built 0.65-meter telescope.
Now, the Minor Planet Center of the IAU (International Astronomical Union) has confirmed the discovery.
“Based on the available observations, the orbit solution for this object has converged to the hyperbolic elements shown below, which would indicate an interstellar origin. A number of other orbit computers have reached similar conclusions, initially D. Farnocchia (JPL), W. Gray, and D. Tholen (UoH). Further observations are clearly very desirable, as all currently-available observations have been obtained at small solar elongations and low elevations. Absent an unexpected fading or disintegration, this object should be observable for at least a year,” reveals a statement by the IAU.
Researchers say that C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) is the first interstellar comet identified as ongoing by our solar system. After its positioning, confirmation of its “cometary nature” was provided by numerous observers.
Current observations suggest C/2019 Q4’s eccentricity is about 3.2 which means it is unquestionably hyperbolic. Objects traveling on hyperbolic orbits are unbound to the Sun.
The enigmatic interstellar object is believed to have originated from the direction of the constellation of Cassiopeia, very close to the galactic plane.
The object is expected to make its closest approach to the sun on December 7, 2019.
The newly-found interstellar object appears to follow the “footsteps” of its more famous counterpart ‘Oumuamua. But unlike C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), it has not been possible to identify ‘Oumuamua as a comet conclusively.