According to a new study, in the frigid atmosphere of the first known interstellar comet to visit our solar system, metal atoms have surprisingly been discovered. In the cold haloes surrounding comets local to our solar system, astronomers have also detected metal. This suggests the interstellar visitor and our solar system comets may have similar origins, researchers add.
Comets made of ice and dust left over from planetary formation could give important clues to the chemistry of early planetary systems. A scientist deduces the composition of comets by examining dust known as comas, and the clouds of gas surround the hearts of comets.
The metal nickel is mainly not detected by a scientist in the comas of comets since their surface is too cold for metal to vaporize. Exceptions to this rule are comets plunging or passing near the sun when temperatures can readily exceed the 800 degrees Fahrenheit needed for nickel vapor to form. In a coma now of the first known interstellar comet, 21/Borisov scientists have detected nickel atoms. It was 1st discovered in 2019, its trajectory and speed revealed from interstellar space it was a rogue comet. It is the 1st known interstellar comet and the 2nd known interstellar comet, and the 1I/’Oumuamua.
In January, the discovery was unexpected when astronomers 1st saw these nickel atoms using the massive telescope in Chile. 2I/Borisov was far from the sun, and the temperature was estimated to be minus 135 degrees F. In the May 20 issue of the journal Nature they detailed their findings. In the May 20 issue of Nature, in an independent study of about 20 solar system comets of many different types in the cold comas, astronomers discovered gaseous nickel and iron. The wavelengths of light from these metals were hidden in plain sight, from other molecules in the comas mingled among the spectrum of light.
The amount of nickel and iron these comets released was small, only about 1 gram per second compared with the roughly 220 lbs. of water per second the comets produced. The amount of nickel these comets each produced per second was almost precisely the nickel content of a U.S. five-cent coin or nickel.