Scientists have discovered a space rock that’s like nothing seen before: a comet that has no tail. While being the first of its kind makes it a truly rare find in itself, the comet is also believed to have been formed around the same time as Earth. Asteroids and comets are believed to have been created during the violent formation of the Solar System, but this example has been described as being in pristine condition, and thus contains samples of the material present when the Earth formed billions of years ago.
As these materials formed Earth and other rocky planets, small chunks are believed to have been thrown to the outer edges of the Solar System. While in deep space they freeze, in turn becoming a preserved fossil. Fortunately it’s just now been pulled back towards the sun, potentially offering astronomers a few small details about the origin of the Solar System.
The reason the comet, technically identified as C/2014 S3, doesn’t feature a tail is because it is solely made up of the ancient rocky material. Typical comets are formed away from the Earth are directly made up of ice and other frozen material, which melts as it approaches the sun, with the vapors creating a “tail.”
As a result of the comets unique feature, scientists have nicknamed it “Manx,” after a breed of cats that have no tails. The comet was first discovered in 2014 through the Pan-STARRS1 telescope in Hawaii, but astronomers with the European Southern Observatory have just now published their study.
While the discovery of the Manx comet is exciting, as it should provide some valuable data, scientists are hoping to find more, as it would take more than a few in order to understand and describe the origins of the Solar System.