• 2I/Borisov is an interstellar comet discovered last year
  • The comet started to break apart in March
  • Scientists believe the comet will survive its trip across the Solar System

New observations confirmed that the interstellar comet that entered Earth’s neighborhood last year would not break apart completely. In a new study, scientists explained that the comet known as 2I/Borisov would survive its trip across the Solar System.

2I/Borisov was first spotted in August last year by amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov. Through an in-depth analysis of its trajectory, the object was classified as an interstellar comet that came from a different star system.

Earlier in March, observations revealed unusual brightness coming from the comet. According to experts, the brightness could indicate outbursts on the comet’s surface. The scientists who were studying the comet at the time explained that 2I/Borisov might be breaking apart.

“We report the detection of two consecutive outbursts of interstellar comet 2I/Borisov in I-band images taken with the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) 1.3-m telescope in Las Campanas,” the scientists stated in their report via the Astronomer’s Telegram.

“The total brightness increase is thus about 0.7 [magnitude] in 5 days between UT 2020 March 4.3 and 9.3,” they continued. “This behavior is strongly indicative of an ongoing nucleus fragmentation.”

After carrying out new sets of observations, the scientists were able to provide an update regarding the current status of the comet. In a new study, the scientists confirmed that although the comet has fragmented, a big portion of its original body still remains intact.

Given its current status, the scientists believe the comet will survive the remainder of its journey across the Solar System.

“Our observations reveal that the outburst and splitting of the nucleus are minor events involving a negligible fraction of the total mass,” the researchers wrote in their study, which is now on Arxiv. “2I/Borisov will survive its passage through the planetary region largely unscathed.”

For members of the scientific community, 2I/Borisov’s partial fragmentation provides a unique opportunity to study the nature of comets. Since the comet will be leaving behind its fragments as it continues its journey, scientists will be able to study debris from 2I/Borisov’s interior. Doing so will provide them with valuable information regarding the nature of the interstellar comet.

2I Borisov
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has given astronomers their best look yet at an interstellar visitor — comet 2I/Borisov — whose speed and trajectory indicate it has come from beyond our solar system. NASA, ESA and J. DePasquale (STScI)