Space scientists seem to have discovered the signs of water on comet 2I/Borisov, the interstellar comet which is currently on its journey towards the Sun. This is the first time that astronomers have observed water which has been brought in our solar system from some other place, Nature has reported.
According to Olivier Hainaut, an astronomer at the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany, the discovery is not surprising as most comets contain water. “There’s water — that’s cool, that’s great,” the report said quoting Hainaut. However, an interstellar comet having water is something very important. This will be a key step towards understanding how water can travel from one star to another.
A team of space researchers headed by Adam McKay, an astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center have reported their discovery on October 28. The findings were submitted on Cornell University’s arXiv. They had utilised an instrument at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico for studying the light reflected by comet 2I/Borisov, they discovered the presence of huge amounts of oxygen near the comet which might be due to a possible result of water ice turning, or sublimating, from solid to gas as the comet gets heated by the Sun.
Ever since it was discovered back on August 30 this year, the interstellar comet 2I/Borisov has been significantly tracked by astronomers around the world. Earlier this month, NASA’s Hubble telescope had clicked some images of the comet as well. The images were clicked on October 12 when the comet was at a distance of 260 million miles from Earth. 2I/Borisov is the second-ever interstellar object discovered by scientists after a cigar-shaped rock called Oumuamua in 2017.
The researchers have also compared the amount of water available in the interstellar comet to the amount of cyanide it has, which was previously spotted by other researchers. The ratio of water to cyanide is consistent with that of the comets which originated from our solar system. This leads scientists to believe the idea that 2I/Borisov is not much different from most other comets, even though it has come from a different star system.
Space scientists expect to see further signs of water and other molecules coming off from the interstellar comet in the coming weeks. “The field is changing almost on a daily basis,” the Nature report quoted Hainaut as saying.