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Space & Astronomy

Interstellar comet may be carrying 'alien water'

October 30, 2019 | Comment icon 6 comments



Could this be our first ever glimpse of 'alien water' ? Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Astronomers have determined that comet 2I/Borisov could be carrying water from a distant solar system.
First observed on August 30th, the comet, which is the second confirmed interstellar object to visit our solar system, is in a hyperbolic orbit and is larger than 'Oumuamua which was discovered in 2017.

It will reach its closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) in December, thus giving astronomers a rare opportunity to observe it in as much detail as possible before it disappears off into interstellar space.

Such observations have already revealed that cyanogen gas is being ejected from the comet's surface and now a team headed up by Adam McKay from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland has discovered something even more exciting - possible evidence of water.

By using the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico to study the light being reflected off the surface of 2I/Borisov, the researchers have been able to detect large amounts of oxygen - a potential sign of water ice turning from a solid to a gas as the comet warms up from the heat of the Sun.
"If a water molecule sublimates off the surface, it gets released as water vapor," said McKay.

If the team is correct, this would be the first time that water from a distant part of the cosmos has been detected here in our own solar system.

Some scientists have theorized that comets like this one could potentially carry microbes from one planet to another, spreading life throughout the universe.

Studying 2I/Borisov could also teach us much about the origins of our own solar system.

"Are we special as a planetary system or are a lot of planetary systems like ours ?" said McKay. "That has implications for the origin of life, and how common life is throughout the universe."

Source: New Scientist | Comments (6)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Piney 3 years ago
Where else could it have come from?
Comment icon #2 Posted by Tom1200 3 years ago
I reckon it's all the water from the Flood. Well, it had to go somewhere, didn't it? Noah used a giant pumppowered by microwaves from the Great Pyramid. He sprayed all the floodwater into space and it's been floating around ever since. Incidentally - did you know Noah also designed and built the Great Pyramid? He built it as a huge granary because he misheard God and thought He'd said "there's-a gonna be a huge food throughout the lands." (God is Italian, by the way, which is why they have such great style.) When he realised his mistake he converted it to a nightclub, then finally a p... [More]
Comment icon #3 Posted by highdesert50 3 years ago
In humor there is indeed candor. Perhaps the story of Noah is more than a metaphor, rather an explanation of the genius of life, a cosmic microbial Ark sailing for eons seeking Ararat.
Comment icon #4 Posted by OverSword 3 years ago
Just think what could be learned or gleaned if we had the means to capture this comet.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Jon the frog 3 years ago
Yep,the taste of comet Popsicle is one of them !
Comment icon #6 Posted by thelion318 3 years ago
2nd interstellar comet? I hope our solar system isn't intercepting some huge asteroid field....


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