Space Events

New Interstellar Visitor

An interstellar object from deep in space has been spotted hurtling towards our solar system. Known as 21/Borisov experts say that the object is only the second interstellar object spotted in our solar system. The first close up of the object was captured in August by experts at the Keck observatory in Hawaii. Borisov is now set to make its close approach next month passing roughly 190 million miles away from our orbit, about twice the distance from Earth to the Sun.

The object itself has a long tail made up of ice and debris stretching a whopping 100,000 miles behind it. With the tale included this makes the Borisov vastly huge staggeringly longer than 12 earths.

Despite the extensive study and focus given to the interstellar object scientists still remain clueless as to what Borisov actually is. At the moment many scientists best guess is that it is a comet, with the hope being that studying it will open the door to answers on how comets are formed in deep space.

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A Strange Green Comet Is Heading Our Way

An unusual green comet reaches maximum brightness on Saturday, providing a treat for early-morning risers.

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova (named after three astronomers who discovered it in 1948) travels into the inner solar system every 5.25 years. On Saturday, 45P will pass just 7.4 million miles from Earth, a stone’s throw by celestial yardsticks.

With binoculars or a small telescope, comet-watchers should be able to spot 45P in the pre-dawn skies between Thursday and Sunday. The comet will be racing through the constellation Hercules high in the eastern sky.

Comet 45P will look like fuzzy bluish-green ball with a fan-shaped tail. Its distinctive colour comes from vaporizing diatomic carbon, a gas which glows green in the near-vacuum of space.

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Tailless comet is first of its kind to get spotted

In what has been described as a first in astronomy, researchers discovered a tailless comet, or, as scientist call it, a “Manx” comet. This is one celestial being that may provide the answer to many pressing questions about how the solar system had come about and evolved to what it is today.

The tailless comet, which was given the official codename C2014/S3, got its more descriptive moniker from the tailless cat of the same name. Researchers noted that it is composed of rocky materials typically found near our planet. This in itself is a peculiarity, given that most comets are composed of frozen materials such as ice, and were formed in the freezing outer regions of solar systems. With this in mind, it is possible that the Manx comet was formed relatively near Earth before getting shuttled off to the outer regions as planets settled into position while our solar system formed.

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Comets to Swerve Close to Earth

An emerald-green comet will brush the Earth Monday, followed one day later by a kissing cousin that will swerve closer to the planet than any other comet in nearly 250 years.

The first and bigger of the two comets will be visible Monday to the naked eye in the southern hemisphere, as long as city lights are far away.

The first member of the pair, known as comet 252P/LINEAR, is a bright green colour from the carbon gas it’s puffing out, says the University of Maryland’s Matthew Knight. 252P will slide past Earth at a distance of roughly 3 million miles. That’s well beyond the moon but near enough to put 252P in the top 10 of closest-approaching comets.

252P wasn’t expected to get terribly bright, but it has been surpassing all expectations. It may even be visible to the unaided eye in southern hemisphere suburbs where light pollution is low.

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Space Weather – Sun Swallows Comet

On Friday, the sun swallowed a comet. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spotted the icy visitor from the outer solar system making a headlong plunge into our star. One comet went in; none came out.

Heated by the sun at point blank range, the comet’s fragile ices vaporised, leaving at most a “rubble pile” of rock and gravel scattered along its sungrazing orbit. Any remains are invisible from Earth. The comet, R.I.P., was probably a member of the Kreutz family. Kreutz sungrazers are fragments from the breakup of a single giant comet many centuries ago. They get their name from 19th century German astronomer Heinrich Kreutz, who studied them in detail.

Several Kreutz fragments pass by the sun and disintegrate every day. Most, measuring less than a few meters across, are too small to see, but occasionally a bigger fragment like this one (~10 m to 50 m) attracts attention. Because of their common parentage, sungrazers often come in clusters.

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Comet ISON Gets Roasted by Sun and Vanishes – Update

Call it a cosmic holiday miracle. The much-anticipated Comet ISON appeared to disintegrate during its Thanksgiving Day slingshot around the sun Thursday, but something — it seems — may have survived.

A NASA update released early Friday (Nov. 29) confirmed the sighting of what appears to be Comet ISON.

The question remains whether it is merely debris from the comet, or if some portion of the comet’s nucleus survived, but late-night analysis from scientists with NASA’s Comet ISON Observing Campaign suggest that there is at least a small nucleus intact.

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Ison: Comet of the Century

Comet Ison came from the Oort Cloud, a mysterious, icy region at the furthest reaches of our Solar System.

It has been hurtling towards the Earth, travelling at more than a million kilometres an hour.

Now it is entering the most perilous stage of its epic journey. It will pass the Sun at a distance of just 1.2 million km, effectively grazing its surface.

It will be getting exposed to more and more intense solar heat, and that will start to sublimate the ices (turning them into gas) at an increasing rate.

The Sun’s intense gravitational field produces tidal forces that will also have a major effect on the comet.

Scientists fear it could follow the path of Comet Lovejoy, which broke apart after it passed near the Sun in 2011. Or it could run out of fuel and fizzle out. It is hoped Ison’s large size could protect it.

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NASA released this photo of the Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) taken on April 10 by the Hubble Space Telescope, when it was slightly closer to the Earth than Jupiter. The nucleus of comet itself is only 3-4 miles in diameter but the dusty head of the comet is about 3,100 miles across. The current dust trail is 57,000 miles long, but will increase in size as it approaches the sun as frozen gases will be released. This comet could actually outshine the moon as it approaches the sun, getting closest on November 28 this year.

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Comet to appear in UK skies

A bright comet could be visible in the skies above the UK on 12 – 13 March – as long as it’s not cloudy!

The icy mass, nicknamed “C/2011 L4 Pan-Starrs” should be visible with binoculars or a telescope.

Astronomers in countries like Australia have already spotted the comet and some reports say it was as bright as the stars in the Plough.