Hubble observes its first interstellar comet

Hubble has been gazing at the stars for decades and has provided some of the best images we have of the cosmos. Recently Hubble was able to observe its very first confirmed interstellar comet in its service life. The comet is called 2I/Borisov.

The speed and trajectory of the comet indicate that it originated from beyond our solar system. The image seen above was snapped on October 12th, 2019, and is the sharpest view of the comet so far. The image shows a central concentration of dust around the nucleus, but the nucleus of the comet is too small to be seen by Hubble.

Comet 2I/Borisov is only the second interstellar object known to have passed through our solar system. The first was in 2017 and was named Oumuamua. The first interstellar visitor appeared to be a rock, Borisov is highly active, more like a typical comet according to researcher David Jewitt from UCLA.

The comet is vital for study by scientists as it provides clues to the chemical composition, structure, and dust characteristics of planetary building blocks from an alien star in the distant past and far away from our solar system. Scientists say that while the star system the comet originated from could be different from our own, the comet's properties appear to be similar to those of our solar system.

The Hubble photographs of the comet were snapped at a distance of 260 million miles from Earth. It will make its closest approach to Earth on Sunday, December 7th, 2019 when it is twice as far from the Sun as Earth. The comet is streaking into our solar system at 110,000 miles per hour. When mid-2020 rolls around, the comet will pass Jupiter at a distance of 500 million miles and then head back into interstellar space.