Researchers have spotted a tailless comet which is made of nearly identical materials as our planet. It is travelling back to the inner solar system and researchers hope to discover more about the solar system as it approaches the sun.
A group of scientists has discovered a unique tailless ‘manx’ comet that is believed to have been formed from the same elements as our planet.
Referred to by scientists as C/2014 S3, the tailless comet formed in the ‘inner Solar System’ at the same time our planet. However, researchers believe that the celestial body was kicked out of the Solar System at a very young age.
According to a study published in the Journal Science Advances, researchers have found what is considered as the first-of-its-kind tailless comet with a composition which may offer incredibly valuable clues into numerous mysteries about the formation and evolution of our solar system.
The comet referred to as a ‘manx’ is named after the breed of cats without tails, is made of elements typically found on our planet. This comet is by far one of the unique ever found, mainly because of its composition. Other comets are made of ice and frozen materials and usually formed in the solar system’s outer edges.
“We already knew of many asteroids, but they have all been baked by billions of years near the Sun.,’ said lead author Karen Meech of the University of Hawai. This one is the first uncooked asteroid we could observe: it has been preserved in the best freezer there is.”
Astronomers are convinced that the comet was formed in the same region in space where our planet formed, but was booted out of the solar system after its formation.
Researchers involved in the finding are eager to learn how many more ‘manx’ comets exist, which could help them uncover the enigma behind the solar system’s formation and configuration.
“Depending how many we find, we will know whether the giant planets danced across the solar system when they were young, or if they grew up quietly without moving much,” paper co-authorOlivier Hainaut, an astronomer with the European SouthernObservatory in Germany, said in a statement.
The comet was spotted for the first time in 2014 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, orPan-STARRS. Researchers state that usually, comets travelling from the same region as the Manx form tails as they approach the sun, a result of ice evaporating off their structure and gleam in reflected sunlight. However, C/2014 S3 was different as it was completely tailless when it was discovered about twice the distance from the sun as Earth.
What caught the attention of astronomers was that analysis showed that instead of the typical elements found in comets like ice, the Manx comet was made of materials similar to asteroids found in the belt between Mars and Jupiter.
The discovery of additional Manx comets could help scientists to refine computer models used to simulate the solar system’s formation, Meech said.
Astronomers concluded that C/2014 S3 is most likely made of inner Solar System material, stored in the Oort Cloud and is now travelling back to where it originated, in the inner Solar System near Earth.