The Sciences

The Best Pictures of Interstellar Comet Borisov as it Approached the Sun

Interstellar visitor 2I/Borisov just made its closest approach to the sun. Here are some shots astronomers took of its journey.

By Erika K. CarlsonDec 11, 2019 9:00 PM


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In August, astronomers discovered interstellar Comet 2I/Borisov — a visitor from outside our solar system. On Sunday, the space rock passed its closest point to the sun, and will makes its closest approach to Earth later this month.

In the meantime, astronomers around the world have turned their telescopes to get a good look at this interstellar visitor while it's here.

Here are some of our favorite shots.

Photo Credits: (Credit: Composite image by Travis Rector. Image Credit: Gemini Observatory/NSF/AURA)

The Gemini Observatory in Hawaii caught this first-ever color image of the interstellar comet Borisov and its faint tail in September.

Photo Credits: (Credit: NASA, ESA, D. Jewitt)

In October, the Hubble Space Telescope captured this shot of 2I/Borisov, which distinctly shows the concentration of dust around the comet's nucleus, separate from the rest of the comet's fuzzy appearance. The nucleus itself is too small to see with Hubble.

Photo Credits: (Credit: P. van Dokkum, G. Laughlin, C. Hsieh, S. Danieli/Yale University)

Astronomers captured this shot of Comet 2I/Borisov, an interstellar space rock passing through our solar system, with the Keck Observatory in Hawaii in November. According to astronomers who captured this image, the comet's tail was several times longer at this point than Earth is across.

Photo Credits: (Credit: NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory/NSF/AURA/Gemini Observatory)

Astronomers used the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii to capture this view of the interstellar comet Borisov, along with some background galaxies, in November. Because they combined multiple images to create the shot, they needed to average the location of the comet in the photos because it had moved relative to the galaxies.

Photo Credits: (Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Olmsted, F. Summers (STScI))

This illustration shows comet Borisov's path through our solar system in the panel on the left. The panel on the right shows where Borisov was, relative to Earth, when the Hubble Space Telescope observed it in October.

Photo Credits: (Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, ESO, M. Kornmesser)

This artist's illustration depicts ‘Oumuamua, the first-known interstellar space rock to visit our solar system. While ‘Oumuamua was different from rocky objects in our solar system in many ways, the interstellar comet Borisov seems similar to solar system comets, astronomers have found.

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