SPACE — Astronomers have spotted a comet heading our way — will be the second interstellar object to ever be detected visiting our solar system.
According to NASA's jet propulsion laboratory, comet C/2019 Q4 was first spotted by Ukrainian amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov on August 30.
It is 20 kilometers wide and bright, unlike the small and faint Oumuamua, an interstellar object that passed through our solar system in 2017.
The comet is currently 420 million kilometers from the Sun.
It will reach its closest point on Dec.
8, 2019, at a distance of about 300 million kilometers.
C/2019 Q4 appears to follow a hyperbolic trajectory and has a current velocity of 150,000 kilometers per hour.
These both indicate that the comet is likely interstellar in nature — originating from beyond our solar system.
Its high velocity also means it will later leave and head back to interstellar space.
Unlike Oumuamua, C/2019 Q4 is an active comet.
National Geographic reports that astronomers have detected its coma, the fuzzy envelope of dust and gas that forms around a comet's nucleus.
According to NASA, the interstellar comet can be seen with professional telescopes in the coming months, peaking in brightness in mid-December.
It will be observable with moderate-size telescopes until April 2020, but after that and through October 2020, it can only be seen with larger professional telescopes.