back to article Boffins examine interstellar comet Borisov to find out what its home was like. Pretty unpleasant, it seems

Astronomers have for the first time measured the chemical composition of an interstellar comet: 2I/Borisov, which strayed into our Solar System last year. Two separate studies published in Nature Astronomy on Monday revealed the speeding icy ball of gas and dust contained a surprising amount of unpleasant carbon monoxide. …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Is it a question of waiting ages for one interstellar object and then two turn up at once or are these a lot more frequent than we realised?

    1. mr.K

      I can't say that they are more frequent than we realised or not, but they are more frequent than we have been able to detect. Think about it, it has taken us a great while to detect most objects in our solar system. They are here for a long time while these just pass through, quite quickly. To be able to detect them we need several things to happen. They need to come close enough, be big enough and bright enough, and we need to look in their direction over a period of time. If we are really lucky they get so close that they start to send out gas and dust making them much more easy to spot. Also, and here I am guessing it will help if they come in close to the plane of our solar system, since we have more cameras looking for things in that plane. (not sure if plane is the right word here, plane of orbits..dunno)

    2. Benchops

      > two turn up at once

      We all know the first one was Rama, so there will be three altogether.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: > two turn up at once

        Bugger.beaten by 9 mins!

  2. macjules
    Black Helicopters

    Second attempt?

    "Hello upright walking monkeys: We tried to get your attention with what you called Oumuamua and failed. Try this on for size."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Second attempt?

      ... and they even made sure this one had lots of both carbon and oxygen, which they know are very important constituent atoms in our biochemistry. :-)

    2. KarMann Silver badge

      Re: Second attempt?

      Well, when the first one came around, we were all joking that the Ramans always do things in threes, especially given its shape. So I guess we'll just have to wait a couple more years for them to finish the bunch.

  3. Alistair Wall

    The freezing point of water in a vacuum is about -50 C.

    1. Dr Paul Taylor

      Temperature for yokels

      Also, please can we get rid of this Fahrenheit nonsense. My ability to divide by 9 etc in my head is not what it used to be. Once upon a time I understood that 68F was room temperature. I **never** understood large negative or positive Fahrenheit temperatures.

      1. RM Myers

        Re: Temperature for yokels

        Agreed. And while we are at it, can we also get rid of this celsius nonsense. Zero degrees based on the melting point of water at sea level - why? Kelvin is so much more logical. Absolute zero should absolutely be zero!

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Temperature for yokels

        Fahrenheit is at least based on a sensible design - reference points (32 and 96) separated by a power of two so that thermometers could be graduated by equal subdivision and then the scale reflected to extend it. Celsius is just the usual powers-of-10 digital rubbish.

        And what's wrong with Rankine, eh?1

        But as usual Randall got here first.

        I think the Reg needs to add a temperature unit to its standard units. Maybe "heat in proportion to a nice cup of tea". My back-of-the-envelope calculations suggests CO freezes at around 0.22 cuppa.2

        1OK, in all seriousness, I recognize the utility of Kelvin in SI.

        2I arbitrarily decided that a nice cup of tea is about 26 °Rø.

  4. Draco

    Why a red dwarf?

    The claim is, “We can infer cold temperature from carbon monoxide because carbon monoxide ice has an extremely low freezing temperature ... If we see lots of carbon monoxide preserved in the comet, that means the comet must have both formed under extremely low temperature where lots of carbon monoxide ice could exist, and never heated significantly above that low temperature ever since..."

    Ok, I buy that. However, couldn't the comet have formed in a region similar to the Kuiper belt - very far away from the parent star (which may or may not be a red dwarf) - where it is very cold regardless if the star is a red dwarf or not?

    1. mr.K

      Re: Why a red dwarf?

      “We think it’s more likely to be the latter case – it comes from a cold red dwarf because there are far more red dwarfs in our Milky Way galaxy than other hotter stars. However, we are still far from saying exactly what’s going on around its host star when planets formed there."

    2. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: Why a red dwarf?

      It's in the article, essentially it is the most probable source since red dwarves are the most common type of star. It's difficult to get precise statistics because they are by their very nature difficult to see, but it is estimated 75% of all stars are red dwarves.

      1. Wilseus

        Re: Why a red dwarf?

        "they are by their very nature difficult to see"

        Yes, it rather puts that into perspective when you realise that none are generally visible to the naked eye, although it's possible that on an exceptionally good night, in an place with zero light pollution some people might just be able to glimpse Lacaille 8760.

  5. Scott 53


    They always come in threes

  6. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

    certainly hope

    that the Vogons didn't put that informational notice about a pending hyperspace bypass in that comet.

    Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz: "What do you mean you didn't get the notice? For heaven's sake, mankind, we sent the notice right through the heart of your pitiful system."

    1. Chris G

      Re: certainly hope

      "Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz: "What do you mean you didn't get the notice? For heaven's sake, mankind, we sent the notice right through the heart of your pitiful system."

      'To make it up to you I'll recite some poetry.....................'

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