APR 28, 2020 9:20 AM PDT

NASA's Swift Telescope Measured the Water Loss of This Interstellar Comet

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

When the interstellar comet 2l/Borisov made its first appearance in our solar system, astronomers were quick to turn their telescopes’ attention to it with the hope of learning more about what comets from other stellar systems might be like. At the least, we’d be able to compare these observations with comets from our own solar system, but on the more captivating side of things, we’d also potentially be able to learn more about the chemistry of the system it came from.

As it approached the Sun, 2l/Borisov shed quite literally millions of gallons of water to create the notorious ‘tail’ comets are renowned for. As it did this, NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory took careful measurements in an effort to measure just how much water 2l/Borisov shed.

These measurements revealed that when the comet made its closest approach to the Sun, it shed enough water to fill a standard-sized bathtub in as little as 10 seconds – that’s a rate of approximately 8.5 gallons every second. It’s also worth noting that at least 55% of the comet’s surface was shedding water at the time of these measurements, and that’s up to 10 times higher than the level of shedding we traditionally see from comets here in our own solar system.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the amount of water shed decreased as 2l/Borisov moved farther away from the Sun. Worthy of note, however, its water shedding curve dropped faster than any comet ever observed from our own solar system during this time.

In total, the Swift telescope measured a loss of approximately 60 million gallons of water during its brief trip through our solar system. It was the first time that astronomers had ever measured the water shedding of a comet not from our solar system, and the results were particularly fruitful to say the least.

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUN 08, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Physicists Find Definitive Proof of What Causes the Northern Lights
JUN 08, 2021
Physicists Find Definitive Proof of What Causes the Northern Lights
The auroras that are the northern lights have captured the imagination of people for thousands of years. While theories ...
JUL 18, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Climate Change has Tilted the Axis of the Earth
JUL 18, 2021
Climate Change has Tilted the Axis of the Earth
The axis of the Earth intersects the planet at the magnetic pole, and Earth's poles are known to wander. They can even f ...
SEP 10, 2021
Space & Astronomy
The Future (and Ethics) of Giant Telescopes
SEP 10, 2021
The Future (and Ethics) of Giant Telescopes
The fate of giant telescopes hangs in the balance as this decade comes to an end.
SEP 10, 2021
Space & Astronomy
NASA Announces December Launch Date for James Webb Space Telescope
SEP 10, 2021
NASA Announces December Launch Date for James Webb Space Telescope
Recently, NASA confirmed that the gamut of earth-based testing for the James Webb Space Telescope has been completed. Ju ...
OCT 21, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
The Threat of Satellite Swarms
OCT 21, 2021
The Threat of Satellite Swarms
Gazing up at the night sky as a child, I loved to point out the satellites blinking in the night sky. Often, I could see ...
NOV 12, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Researchers Reveal Changes in Jupiter's Spot
NOV 12, 2021
Researchers Reveal Changes in Jupiter's Spot
There's a massive storm on Jupiter called the Great Red Spot. It swirls in the planet's Southern Hemisphere, spinning co ...
Loading Comments...