A gigantic comet, believed to be interstellar in nature and is going to get extremely close to the Sun. Know whether this alien space rock can survive or not.
Right now, comets are dominating the astronomy world. While the rare green comet is making its closest approach to the Earth today, February 1, another gigantic comet is headed for the Sun. Known as Comet 96P/Machholz, this comet is set to get three times closer to the Sun than Mercury, the closest planet to it. The comet appears to have an origin outside of our solar system. Astronomers believe that this 6-kilometers wide comet got caught within our solar system by accident and actually belongs to interstellar space. So, what can happen when an alien comet heads for the Sun? Find out.
The comet was spotted by astronomers due to its bright glow, which is more than what most comets are capable of producing. The development was reported by SpaceWeather.com which noted on its website, “Comet 96P/Machholz is at perihelion, its closest approach to the sun…Comet 96P is only 0.12 AU from the sun. For comparison, Mercury is more than 3 times farther away”. And this close proximity to the Sun has heated its outer surface which has led it to give off a bright glow.
Giant comet is headed for the Sun
Normally, a comet headed for the Sun would have evaporated before it could reach that close, but it is believed that due to its large size, the comet has been able to withstand the heat so far. In 2008, the comet tail was analyzed by astronomers for the first time. A comet’s tail is primarily made up of gasses and other material. And upon its examination, it was revealed the comet contained extremely low levels of cyanogen and carbon, leading them to believe that this was an alien comet which landed within the solar system by accident.
And this is the main reason why astronomers are closely watching the comet. Right now, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is monitoring the comet as it reaches its perihelion (the point in its orbit which is closest to the Sun). It is believed that as more of the comet’s matter burns up, scientists can understand more about this interstellar celestial body.
96P is a very atypical comet, both in composition and in behavior, so we never know exactly what we might see. “Hopefully we can get some beautiful science out of this and share with everyone as soon as we can,” Karl Battams, an astrophysicist at the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC, told spaceweather.com.
At this moment, it is not possible to say whether the comet will survive its encounter with the Sun, but if it does, it can reveal its core and tell us even more about its composition.
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