The first interstellar comet to visit our Solar System, 2I/Borisov, is breaking into pieces, the images from the Hubble Space Telescope analysed by a team of astronomers led by David Jewitt showed.
According to the researchers’ analysis published on the Astronomer’s Telegram, there is a significant difference between a set of images of the comet taken on 23 March and seven days later, on 30 March, which tend to show that the object has started breaking into pieces.
“Images from UT 2020 March 23 show a single inner brightness core, like that observed in all previous HST images of 2I/Borisov,” the astronomers noted.
Tweet: Comet 2I/Borisov, the first comet detected to come from outside the Solar System and discovered last year, reportedly began to split in two last week.
La comète 2I/Borisov, première comète détectée à provenir d'en-dehors du Système solaire et découverte l'année dernière, aurait commencé à se scinder en deux la semaine dernière.https://t.co/gM3N0W0vqM pic.twitter.com/L6qmq4pXXJ— astropierre (@astropierre) April 3, 2020
“In contrast, images from UT 2020 on 30 March show a clearly non-stellar core, consistent with two unresolved components separated by 0.1 arcsecond (180 km at the distance of the comet) and aligned with the main axis of the larger dust coma,” the team explained.
The comet, which was discovered in August 2019 by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov and named after him, closely approached the Sun on 8 December 2019. Since then, scientists have been monitoring its behaviour, as it is common for comets to break apart after passing the perihelion, although not unavoidable.
It looks like there is not much hope left for 2I/Borisov to continue its way through the universe, as it was the second interstellar object and the first ever interstellar comet to enter our Solar System.