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Second interstellar visitor confirmed

2I/Borisov
A two-color composite image from the Gemini North Multi-Object Spectrograph in Hawaii shows the interstellar object 2I/Borisov. Blue and red dashes are images of background stars that appear to streak due to the comet’s motion. (Gemini Observatory / NSF / AURA Image / Travis Rector)

Two years after astronomers made their first detection of a celestial object that came into our solar system from the neighborhood of another star, they have now confirmed the existence of another one.

The comet, originally known as C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), was discovered on Aug. 30 by Gennady Borisov at the MARGO observatory in Crimea, a region that’s contested by Ukraine and Russia.

Based on an analysis of night-by-night observations, the International Astronomical Union announced today that the comet is “unambiguously interstellar in origin,” coming in from far beyond our solar system. The IAU also gave the object a new name to befit its interstellar status: 2I/Borisov.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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