It’s Astronomy Day!

Here is your Smarty Pants Space Watch Report for: October 13, 2019

A Comet Named “C/2019 Q4”

Gennady-with-0.65-m-scope_SOn August 30, 2019, Russian amateur astronomer, Gennady Borisov, spots a new object in the night sky over the Crimea (a region in Middle Europe surrounded by the Black Sea). 

Gemini Observatory of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Hawaii confirms that the object appears to be a comet from another solar system. They named it C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) and call it the first real interstellar comet.

Fun Fact: The NSF operates through the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA). This is a partnership of countries that study and share scientific information.

What is a Comet?

Just a big ball of ice and rock leftover from old objects in space. A real comet has a tail because as it nears the sun’s heat and radiation, it starts ‘letting out gas.’ The gas tail always points away from the sun. C/2019 Q4 also follows a scientific path consistent with comets. That’s how “they” – our dedicated astronomers, know it is a real comet.

The Other Interstellar Object

download (7)Actually, in 2017, another interstellar object (from another solar system) flew by. But it was just a ‘wannabe” comet. It was more elongated and asteroid-like with no tail.

It came within 180,000 miles of the sun. They named it Oumuamua 2.0. It was hightailing itself out of our solar system before it was even spotted.

There was no time to observe.

Gemini Observatory Sees C/2019/Q4

The Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph caught sight of the C/2019 Q4 comet early in its entry into our solar system. The ‘super-eye’ of the telescope was able to quickly adjust to take pictures and record data. The images of C/2019 Q4 show a multicolor object that is consistent with the features of a real comet.

How Long Will C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) Visit Our Solar System?

It is now in a position towards the sun and 260,000,000 miles away. In the coming download (8)months, the path of its space flight will become better observable to astronomers. It will come within 190,000,000 of our sun. Then, the comet will veer off on a path that will take it out of the atmosphere of our solar system.

Bid farewell to C2019/Q4 on December 8, 2019, when it will fly on out to worlds unknown.

You Can Be A Space-Watcher

Check with your parents. Go out in your backyard. Look up at the sky. Like Gennedy Borisov, you might see something new in space.

Watch for upcoming Space Watch posts about what to look for in the night sky. Let us know what YOU want to know about Space. Or, TELL us what YOU know about Space.

See How to Talk Like an Astronaut pdf (Curriculum Corner) for vocabulary words used in this post. asteroid, comet, gas, solar system, telescope, sun, star, atmosphere


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s