Amateur Astronomer Spots Comet Now Believed to Be From Another Solar System

The newly found comet, dubbed C/2019 Q4, was discovered by Gennady Borisov, a Crimean astronomer working out of an observatory in Nauchnij, Crimea. This image was obtained using the Gemini North Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) from Hawaii's Maunakea. The blue and red lines are background stars moving in the background. Composite image by Travis Rector.

The first-ever comet from beyond our Solar System has been successfully imaged by the Gemini Observatory in multiple colors.

"This image was possible because of Gemini's ability to rapidly adjust observations and observe objects like this, which have very short windows of visibility", Andrew Stephens, who coordinated the observations at the Gemini Observatory, said in a statement. "However, we really had to scramble for this one since we got the final details at 3:00 a.m".

C/2019 Q4 is the white object in the center with the fuzzy tail, or coma, a result of outgassing that defines a comet.

Comet Borisov, or C/2019 Q4, as it's more formally known, likely came from somewhere beyond our solar system and is now set to make its closest pass by the sun in December before heading back out to deep space.

The first known interstellar object to visit our solar system, the history-making asteroid named the 'Oumuamua, was discovered by astronomers in October 2017 and puzzled the scientific community at the time, even setting off since-debunked rumors of extraterrestrial activity. A research paper, led by Guzik, was uploaded to the preprint server Arxiv on Thursday (Sept. 12) and has been submitted to a journal for publication.

C/2019 Q4 is now close to the apparent position of the Sun in our sky and is consequently hard to observe due to the glow of twilight. The comet's hyperbolic path, which is evidence of its origin beyond our Solar System, will bring it to more favorable observing conditions over the next few months.

The comet was originally spotted by Ukrainian amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov on August 30 from Crimea, and over the following weeks observatories around the world have swung into action to try to make follow-up observations.