A few days after the bright green comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) visited Earth for the first time in more than 50,000 years, a potentially larger comet from another solar system is heading toward the Sun on a journey that will be very close to our planet. star.
Comet 96P / Machholz 1, with a diameter of 6 km, is called the size of a city (or the size of Mount Kilimanjaro), in contrast to comets that approach the Sun, which are usually the size of a house.
Now, nearly 40 years after its first sighting, 96P/Machholz 1 is about to approach its closest point to the Sun in more than half a decade after entering Mercury’s orbit.
An intruder from another solar system?
In addition to its unusual size, comet 96P/Machholz 1 has, according to comparative analysis, less than 1.5% of expected levels of cyanogen and a low carbon content, which has led astronomers to conclude that it could be an intruder from another solar system.
“96P is a very unusual comet, both in its composition and its behaviour, so we don’t know exactly what we can see.” announced to spaceweather.com Carl Battams, an astrophysicist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC.
Batams is waiting with open eyes how a potential interstellar object will react. Especially since 96P appears to be large enough to survive a near-sun pass, which could unlock more secrets of these space rocks.
“Hopefully we can get some nice science out of this and get involved [esto] with everyone as fast as we can,” said Battams, who has been tracking the comet’s progression toward the Sun using NASA’s SOHO Solar Observatory.
Edited by Felipe Espinosa Wang.
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