We can take a closer look at the latest interstellar interloper of our solar system a quarter-century from now, if we wish, according to a new study.
Late last month, Russian amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov spotted a comet that appeared to be visiting from far away. The strange trajectory and enormous speed of the object, known as Comet C / 2019 Q4 (Borisov) strongly suggest that it was born around a star other than our own sun, scientists say.
This comet is the third potential interstellar visitor we know of – and they have all been spotted in the last two years only.
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The first was "Oumaamua which was enlarged through the solar system in the fall of 201
Such a movement may be caused by a comet attack, but astronomers have never seen a tail flowing from Oumuamua or other obvious comet 'features. So Harvard University astronomers Schmuel Bialy and Avi Loeb propose that "Oumaamua should actually be an alien spacecraft – in particular one equipped with a light cloth whose use of sunlight pressure can explain the strange movement of the object. ] Lobo participates in the discovery of a second potential interstellar visitor: a small meteor that exploded in the sky near Papua New Guinea in January 2014. Lob and Harvard student Amir Sirai announced the probable exotic origin of the site earlier this year, in an unpublished reprint. They are based on their conclusion on the trajectory of the meteor that they reconstructed after exploring the fireball database compiled by the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Like Comet C / 2019 Q4 (Borisov), the 3-foot-so far (1 meter) meteor so far remains a potential, not confirmed, interstellar visitor. Siraj and Loeb have not yet been able to publish their documents, mainly because the CNEOS database does not report a measurement error. (This information was classified because it could reveal details of governmental sensors used to detect fireballs. Sirai and Loeb nailed the error bars with the help of people with proper security clearance; the log in which they sent the document was trying to find someone like that, Siraj told Space.com last month .)
Shortly after "Oumuamua took the stage, researchers around the world began exploring the possibility of launching a probe for exploring the object up bl o . The information gathered from such a mission could reveal a key idea of the formation and evolution of other solar systems and may tell us whether objects such as' Oumuamua usually carry the building blocks of life, or perhaps even life itself
One team that considered the possibility of a Oumaamua mission was then led by Andreas Hein of the Star Interstellar Initiative in England. Hein and his team decided that people could really send a ship to fly to the site using modern technology.
For example, a NASA spacecraft-sized probe for the New Horizons could fire at Oumaamawa on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in 2021 and reach Oumaamawa in 2049 the researchers calculated. The journey will be schematic, including the fly of Jupiter and Saturn, as well as the maneuver near the sun.
Now Hein and some members of the same team have examined the prospect of Comet C / 2019 Q4 (Borisov) probe. A new study finds that such a mission is indeed feasible, but it should use a much smaller spacecraft than a trip to Oumaamawa.
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We could drop 6.6 pounds. (3 kilograms) kubzat to the comet in 2030 with the help of NASA's huge Space Launch System rocket still under development, Hein and his colleagues reported in a book which they recently published on an online pre-press site arXiv.org. The small ship would reach its destination in 2045 after using a Jupiter pilot and a maneuver near the sun.
The interesting thing is that we just missed an opportunity to send a much more capable ship to Borisov. Orbital dynamics allow a 2-tonne spacecraft to launch into a comet over a Falcon Heavy – if that launch occurred in July 2018, according to researchers.
It would be fascinating to see any interstellar object up close, of course. But Heine said that if he had to choose a flying target, he would go with "Oumuamua.
"From what we know, I'd prefer Oumuamua right now," he told Space.com via email. "In terms of degree of weirdness," Oumuamua is currently definitely winning against C / 2019 Q4 (Borisov). The strange cigar-like shape and its mysterious acceleration make one curious to know more. "
" However, things can change as we have more telescope observations on the C / 2019 Q4 (Borisov), "Hein added." In the next few days or weeks we may find weirdness about this object as well. . Another reason for Oumuamua's catch is that it is slightly easier to reach than C / 2019 Q4 (Borisov) since it travels a little slower (26.3 km / s outside the solar system versus about 30 km / s ). "
We will never send a spacecraft to any of the sites. But Hein said knowing that we could do it was important, all the more so that Borisov would hardly be the last interstellar visitor we met. The Big Synoptic Research Telescope, which is scheduled to release online next year, is likely to find a significant number on its own for example.
"We want to show the space and scientific community that we have technology to develop missions to stellar objects, if we will, "said Hein. "The fact that we were able to demonstrate the technical ability to send a spacecraft to two open objects makes it very likely that we will reach the next one."
And this is only with the help of modern technologies. There are potential breakthroughs on the horizon that could make the study of Oumaamawa and its genus quite straightforward. If the interstellar Breakthrough Starshot project descends from the earth as planned, humanity can begin to greet the interconnecting rocks after decades with swarms of nanoplastics that sail to their destinations in just a few days in most.
Mike Wall's book on the search for extraterrestrial life, " There " (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate ), is out, Follow it in Twitter @michaeldwall . Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook .