NASA scientists get look inside comet from outside Earth's solar system

Since the comet 2I/Borisov was first observed entering our solar system in 2019, it has intrigued scientists as a time capsule from another sector of the universe.

comet 248 88 (photo credit: AP)
comet 248 88
(photo credit: AP)
Since the comet 2I/Borisov was first observed entering our solar system in 2019, it has intrigued scientists as a time capsule from another sector of the universe, revealing information about its elements and origins.
New research reported by CNN has found that the comet has been rocketing across our solar system, shedding gas and other materials of interest, some of which could be millions of cubic meters in volume, as it comes into close proximity to the sun.
In December 2019, NASA scientists observed 2I/Borisov at  the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array of telescopes in Chile (ALMA), as it passed within 190 million miles of Earth shedding gas and dust via its its cometary tail.
"This is the first time we've ever looked inside a comet from outside our solar system. "And it is dramatically different from most other comets we've seen before," said Martin Cordiner, astrochemist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and an author of one of the studies on 2I/Borisov, both of which were published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Some of the observations made by NASA scientists including the dispensing of  hydrogen cyanide gas and carbon monoxide gas, suggesting that the comet may have formed as a result of different circumstances unseen in Earth's solar system. 
Another study published on Monday found that the amount of carbon monoxide in 2I/Borisov is between nine and 26 times greater than the average comet in our solar system, in addition to confirming the detection of hydrogen cyanide in amounts similar to comets originating from Earth's solar system. 
Stefanie Milam, study co-author and planetary scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said that "[2I/Borisov] must have formed from material very rich in [carbon monoxide] ice, which is only present at the lowest temperatures found in space, below -420 degrees Fahrenheit (-250 degrees Celsius)."
The variation in the amount of carbon monoxide gas within the comet, NASA scientists believe, may be due to the particular region in which the comet was created. 
"If the gases we observed reflect the composition of 2I/Borisov's birthplace, then it shows that it may have formed in a different way than our own solar system comets, in an extremely cold, outer region of a distant planetary system," added Cordiner. 
At the moment, scientists and astronomers remain uncertain as to which kind of star the comet orbited prior to entering Earth's solar system. ALMA ha continued to observe the comet, which is done using telescopes to monitor 2I/Borisov.
Anthony Remijan, study co-author at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia, praised ALMA for their monitoring, saying that "ALMA has been instrumental in transforming our understanding of the nature of cometary material in our own solar system -- and now with this unique object coming from our next door neighbors."
"It is only because of ALMA's unprecedented sensitivity at submillimeter wavelengths that we are able to characterize the gas coming out of such unique objects," Remijan added.
2I/Borisov is the second interstellar object to enter our solar system, following the discovery of Oumuamua, an asteroid, in 2017. 
Commenting on the importance of the comet, Milam noted that "2I/Borisov gave us the first glimpse into the chemistry that shaped another planetary system."
"But only when we can compare the object to other interstellar comets, will we learn whether 2I/Borisov is a special case, or if every interstellar object has unusually high levels of CO (carbon monoxide)," she added.