In the solar system for the first time flew the comet: astronomers in shock

Unique astronomical event recorded on the days of the American astronomers. For the first time in 300 years of active observations of the sky, they noticed the comet that had flown into our Solar system from distant worlds, thereby refuting the hypothesis that the comet is a phenomenon peculiar only to our solar system. To comment on this we asked the doctor of physico-mathematical Sciences, head of the Department of physics and evolution of stars of Institute of astronomy Dmitry VIBE.


So, this momentous event — the passage through the Solar system (SS) interstellar comet C/U1 2017 from other worlds — or rather from the constellation Lyra, was recorded on 18 October with the help of American auto PANSTARRS telescope installed in Hawaii. When she noticed, she was already moving away from us faster than the family of comets of our solar system, more than 20 km per second. However, the researchers quickly counted back and found out that the perigee — the closest point of passage of a comet by the Sun — was it September 9, at around a quarter of astronomical units, that is, at a distance of about 40 million kilometers from the sun. Then interstellar comet flying inside the orbit of mercury.

Scientists were able to very roughly determine its size — about 400 meters in diameter. But the hyperbolic trajectory, open-loop — characteristic of interstellar Wanderers — recorded more or less accurately.

The comet, which was discovered by the PANSTARRS telescope, gives rise to new arguments about whether the comet exclusively to the Solar system or is it the body, which inevitably are formed during the early evolution of many planetary systems, explains Wiebe. — There are arguments in one direction or the other. In particular, there are indirect observations, interpreted the fall of the comet on other stars. If to speak about direct “evidence”, it is the ejection of comets in interstellar space, which occurred in the course of dynamic evolution of the Solar system. Accordingly, it is possible to assume that in other planetary systems, comets also released into interstellar space.

— Why did astronomers not seen such interstellar comets?

— Didn’t found them earlier because of the very large stellar distances and the relatively small size of the Solar system, which makes the visit to us of such bodies is unlikely. So the comet can be considered a unique gift to us. Especially the fact that she was in the Central part of the SS, although he could get out of the corner, at the office, and we would never see.

— That its appearance changes in our understanding of astronomy?

Is convincing evidence that comets are formed not only in the Solar system.

— If I understand correctly, the hyperbolic trajectory is the main difference between an interstellar comet from our relatives, moving in an ellipse? What affects its shape?

— The fact that it was not originally connected with the Sun, which tend to hold the comet, making their trajectory is curved.

— Why it used to be that other planetary systems can not be comets?

— When we look into the past of our SS and trying to sort out our comets (remnants of the first substance), you come to the conclusion that their large distance from the center of the Solar system due to the early episode when Jupiter and Saturn fell into resonance and their combined effect mixed all bodies in the SS so that cometary nuclei were transferred to a distant periphery — in the tens and hundreds of thousands of astronomical units. By the way, this is what has kept these cometary nuclei intact to the present day. Once the cause of the reflux of cometary nuclei was cataclysm — so, not the fact that it could be repeated in other planetary systems. There was supposed to be the comet flying near their suns, have long been able to evaporate.

— But now we know that it is not…

Now, at least, one flown to us the comet C/2017 U1 we can assume that the formation and long-term survival of cometary nuclei is not unique.

— So, we can assume that similar disasters occurred in the distant corners of the Universe?

Either something like that or we in the SS the formation of cometary nuclei is not so much due to the cataclysm.

— If we could theoretically land on a hyperbolic comet to study its properties?

— About it now I don’t think we don’t have high-speed ships.

— Is it possible for such comets, the existence of any signs of ancient alien life?

— Any comet or asteroid has still not found the surest signs of life.

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