Astronomers from NASA discovered that the second interstellar comet to enter the Solar System is carrying water. The astronomers noted that this discovery could shed light on the formation of Earth-like planets in other star systems.

The scientific community mainly believes that water on Earth came from cosmic bodies such as asteroids and comets that crashed on the planet billions of years ago. Many astronomers think that this led to the formation of large bodies of water on the planet.

Recently, a team of astronomers from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center used the Astrophysical Research Consortium Telescope in New Mexico to get a closer look at comet 2I/Borisov, which is the second interstellar visitor to enter Earth’s neighborhood after Oumuamua.

Based on their observations, the astronomers learned that when light from the Sun hits the comet, it is either absorbed or reflected off from the object’s surface. After analyzing the light spectrum bouncing off from the comet, they learned that it is similar to substances that contain water particles.

For astronomers, water-carrying comets such as 2I/Borisov could provide a deeper understanding of the processes involved in the formation of planets.

“Comets have a primitive volatile composition that is thought to reflect the conditions present in their formation region in the protosolar disc,” the researchers wrote in their study, which has been submitted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

“This makes studies of cometary volatiles powerful for understanding the physical and chemical processes occurring during planet formation.”

The astronomers noted that studying the interstellar comet will provide valuable information regarding the composition of objects that come from a different solar system.

“The discovery of interstellar comet 2I/Borisov provides an opportunity to sample the volatile composition of a comet that is unambiguously from outside our own Solar System, providing constraints on the physics and chemistry of other protostellar discs,” the astronomers stated.

First discovered in August by Crimean astronomer Gennady Borisov, 2I/Borisov is currently moving across the Solar System with a speed of 110,000 miles per hour. It is expected to reach its closest distance to the Sun of 200 million miles by December.

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)