There May Be Water on the Interstellar Comet 2I/Borisov

Society | October 31, 2019, Thursday // 15:30|  views

Photo by Guillermo Ferla on Unsplash

Astronomers say they have detected a telltale trace of water on comet 2I/Borisov, the first known interstellar comet, New Scientist reported. If this is confirmed, this will be the first time water from another planetary system has been detected inside our solar system.

Since the comet Borisov was discovered in late August, astronomers are racing to observe it before it approaches the Sun in early December. Cyanogen gas has already been spotted ejecting from its surface - something common to comets in our solar system.

Adam MacKay of the Goddard Center and his colleagues have now found large amounts of oxygen around the comet, possibly the result of sublimation of water ice due to the heat from the sun. They used an instrument at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico in order to observe the comet. According to their data, the comet produces up to 19 kg of water per second.

According to Alan Fitzsimmons from Queen’s University Belfast, UK, the observation is a clear detection of oxygen atoms that points to the comet containing water.

Water outside the solar system has been discovered before - in the atmosphere of exoplanets or star-forming nebulae, but never from another planetary system this close.

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Tags: 2I/Borisov, comet, water


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