Did Scientists Locate An Alien Spacecraft Crashing Towards Earth?

For centuries humanity has looked up at the
stars and wondered if we’re alone in the universe. We’ve dedicated much time and money trying
to determine if anyone else is out there, and recently there’s been a lot of excitement
in the scientific community over a newly detected object hurtling towards our solar system. For some this was a chance to prove the possibility
of alien life. In the wee hours of the morning of August
30, 2019 engineer and amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov was scanning the horizon in Nauchnij,
Crimea. Using a telescope with a 650 mm (2.13 feet)
aperture of his own design, he spotted an unknown object and posted an animation of
it crossing the sky in an online Russian astronomy forum. As word spread, other astronomers around the
world began scanning for the object and making their own observations. Then the Gemini North Observatory, atop of
Mauna Kea in Hawai’i using the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph instrument was able to capture
colored, detailed images of the object on September 9th and 10th. The William Herschel Telescope in La Palma,
Spain was also able to take some images of the object. Unfortunately for alien enthusiasts, the object
was declared to be a comet. It’s been given the name 2I/Borisov. Disappointing if you were hoping for little
green men in a flying saucer, but a pretty exciting discovery for the scientific community,
especially since 2I/Borisov is interstellar. What exactly does that mean? Well, first let’s start with what a comet
is. Many have referred to comets as ‘dirty or
‘cosmic’ snowballs. They are balls of frozen gases, rock and dust
that orbit the sun. When a comet’s orbit brings it close to the
sun, the ice on its surface vaporizes. It spews dust and gases to form a giant glowing
head and frequently also produces a tail. Comets vary in size, but typically the nucleus
or center of a comet is around 6 miles (10 km) wide. The width of the coma, or the cloud that forms
around the nucleus, changes size depending on how close the comet is to the sun. Scientists have studied comets with comas
that are 50,000 miles (80,000 km) wide. A comet’s tail also varies in length due
how much it’s being heated by the sun’s radiation. Comet tails range from short to extremely
long. The longest comet tail recorded to date was
the tail for Comet Hyahutake with a length of 3.3 AU or 3.3 times the distance from the
earth to the sun, some 307 million miles (494,068,608 million km). Two main types of comets orbit in our solar
system. Ecliptic or short periodic comets are generally
defined as those having orbital periods of less than 200 years and follow the ecliptic
plane, the same plane in which the planets lie. Ecliptic comets tend to be around 70 AU or
roughly 70 x 93 million miles (70 x 150 million km) or less from the sun. These comets are thought to have been created
in the Kuiper Belt, a circumstellar disc composed of gas, dust, planetesimals and asteroids
that orbit around the sun from beyond Neptune. A well known ecliptic comet is Halley’s
comet which passes earth’s vicinity about every 75 years. You or your parents may remember Halley’s
comet passing the Earth in 1986, a time when Magnum, P.I was on American TV and shoulder
pads were in style. Wait, was that really 1986 or now? Anyway, the second type of comet are nearly
isotropic or long-period comets which originated in the theoretical Oort Cloud, a spherical
bubble of icy cosmic debris encasing our solar system. The Oort Cloud is considered theoretical because
it’s at the farthest edge of our solar system and we haven’t yet observed it. It’s thought to begin some 2,000 to 200,000
AU or 0.03 to 3.2 light-years away from the sun. We hypothesize it exists because we’ve observed
some of its effects on the solar system. There are likely billions of comets orbiting
our Sun, many from afar in the Oort Cloud, but as of July 2018 we are only aware of 6,339
of them. Back to newly discovered comet 2I/Borisov. Why 2I/Borisov is considered so unique is
because it’s interstellar meaning that it originated outside our solar system. It formed from cosmic material surrounding
another star millions perhaps billions of years ago and unimaginably far away. Due to some unknown massive cosmic event,
the comet is now traveling through our solar system. 2I/Borisov has been determined be interstellar
because of its orbit and how fast it’s moving. The comet’s trajectory is extremely hyperbolic
with a wide arc that approaches from one direction and leaves in another, marking it as an object
just passing through. Amazingly, the comet is travelling at a breakneck
velocity of 93,000 mph (150,000 kph), that’s nearly 26 miles per second (nearly 42 km/s)! Another clue that the comet is from outside
our solar system is that it’s not gravitationally bound to the sun. 2I/Borisov is only the second object we’ve
ever detected as originating outside of our solar system. The first known interstellar object was Oumuamua
which was first observed on October 19, 2017 by Canadian physicist and astronomer Robert
Weryk using the Pan-STARRS telescope at Haleakala Observatory in Hawai’i. Oumuamua means in
Hawaiian “scout or messenger from our distant past”. Unfortunately, Oumuamua was 40 days passed
its perihelion, or the point that is as close to the sun as it was going to get. Also it was already some 21,000,000 miles
or 0.22 AU (33,000,000 km) from Earth and headed out of our solar system when it was
detected, so scientists didn’t have much time to study it. Awesomely, we discovered 21/Borisov during
its arrival to our solar system, which gives us much more time to observe it. Through mid November 2019, the comet is observable
with some telescopes in the Northern hemisphere. It will cross the celestial equator on November
13th and enter into the southern sky giving astronomers and enthusiasts in Australia and
other southern regions the possibility of viewing it. On December 6th, the comet will be an equal
distance of about 2 AU from the sun and earth. Its perihelion is December 8, 2019. While 2I/Borisov will peak in brightness in
mid December, unless it fades or disintegrates unexpectedly, the comet should be observable
with moderate-sized telescopes until April 2020. After that it will only be observable with
larger professional telescopes through October 2020. Since 21/Borisov began its journey so long
ago to arrive in the vicinity of our solar system now, we can only speculate about the
system it came from. From its entry into our solar system, the
comet originated from the direction of the galactic disk of the Milky Way. Some scientists have proposed that 21/Borisov
originated in Kruger 60, a binary star system composed of a pair of red dwarf stars some
13.15 light-years away from earth. Extrapolating from the comet’s orbital parameters
determined so far, astronomers at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland in
Poland have modelled and rewound 2I/Borisov’s trajectory through space accounting for the
gravitational influence of 648 star systems it passed. After a series of 10,000 simulations, where
researchers varied the comet’s orbital parameters and Kruger 60’s location and velocity, they’ve
found that about 1 million years ago, 2I/Borisov passed just 5.7 light-years from the center
of Kruger 60, moving fairly slowly–just 2.13 miles per second (3.43 kilometers per second). Yes, that’s still very, very fast, however,
that’s a slow enough speed to indicate origination, rather than the comet just passing by. However, Kruger 60 results are preliminary
and more simulations will be done as researchers continue to gather more data while observing
2I/Borisov. So far, 21/Borisov is displaying the characteristics
of a regular comet. A debate is currently raging among scientists
as to how large the nucleus of the comet is. The present estimate is between .8 of a mile
to just over 4 miles (1.4- 6.6 km) wide with a tail of around 6 miles. This is in contrast to Oumuamua which seemed
more like an asteroid rather than a comet with its odd oblong shape and unusual orbital
characteristics. It lacked a coma and a tail. However after scientists analyzed data from
many different observatories, they realized that Oumuamua underwent non-gravitational
acceleration. Something besides just the gravity from our
solar system affected the trajectory of Oumuamua. Probably the source of this acceleration was
jets of gas coming off the object. This behavior is similar to how when near
the sun, ice in comets sublimates or turns into a gas without going through a liquid
stage. The gas can push the object along and usually
emits large amounts of dust. However, we couldn’t see the outgassing
for Oumuamua. It’s speculated that the comet had used
up all of its dust on its interstellar travels or had dust particles are a size we had trouble
detecting. Using telescopes, scientists have measured
the light being scattered off the gases in 21/Borisov’s nebulous coma. Measuring the light spectrum of 21/Borisov
allows us to analyze the chemical composition of the ices in the comet that are undergoing
sublimation. Knowing which chemicals are contained within
the vapor of this cosmic snowball gives us a glimpse into the ancient building blocks
which make up another planetary system. So far, scientists have reported the detection
of cyanide in 2I/Borisov which is commonly found in regular comets born in our solar
system. Instead of analyzing the light coming off
of 21/Borisov, wouldn’t it be easier to retrieve a sample from the comet? Scientists would love to collect material
from the comet, but it’s moving too fast for that. Researchers have studied whether it would
be possible to intercept 2I/Borisov. While it is feasible, it’s pretty unlikely. Assuming that we were ready to launch immediately
as of September 2019, using the latest heavy launch technology and calculating the perfect
trajectory, at a speed of 21.1 miles a second (34km/s) a very light payload could intercept
2I/Borisov in 2045. Meanwhile, the European Space Agency (ESA)
are currently building a robotic spacecraft called the Comet Interceptor which is planned
for launch in 2028. The mission plan is to ‘park’ the spacecraft
at a Sun-Earth Lagrangian point or a point where the gravitational forces of large orbiting
bodies and the centripetal force of orbital motion match to maintain its position relative
to the large orbiting bodies, in this case the sun and earth. The Comet Interceptor will be parked at L2
which is about 930,000 miles (1.5 million km) behind Earth as viewed from the Sun.. Once parked, the Comet Interceptor will wait
for up to three years for a long-period comet to flyby at a reachable distance. If all goes well the Comet Interceptor will
deploy probes to inspect the passing comet, collecting some of the coma and sampling for
gas composition, dust flux, density, magnetic fields, as well as plasma and solar wind interactions,
to build up a 3D profile of the region around the comet. There’s a chance that the Comet Interceptor
could end up inspecting an interstellar comet. It was just about 2 years between Oumuamua
and 21/Borisov visiting our solar system. Scientists speculate that we receive interstellar
objects visiting fairly regularly. However up until now in history, we simply
didn’t have the technology to discover them, observe them or realize that they were interstellar
travellers. Not only would intercepting and studying an
interstellar comet tell us a lot about another planetary system, it could provide us with
proof of alien life. An interstellar comet could carry microbial
or animal life capable of surviving the harsh conditions of space, traces of the dead remnants
of alien life via as chemical or biosignatures or so-called techno-signatures or technological
artifacts in the comet debris left by aliens. So while 21/Borisov turned out not to be an
alien spacecraft, studying the comet may provide us with some clues that help us to determine
if there is life aside from us in the universe. Do you think 21/Borisov is an important discovery? Why or not? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video
Astronomers Are Speechless After Spotting THIS Inside Black Hole! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t
forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!


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