Astronomers have detected a bizarre comet that they believe could change our understanding of the solar system.
A team of researchers working with the University of Hawaii has made a fascinating discovery that could shed light on the origins of our solar system. According to a report from Reuters, the bizarre comet lacks a tail and is made of the same rocky materials found here on Earth.
The “Manx” comet, named after a type of cats that also don’t have tails, was likely formed in the same region of the solar system as Earth before it began orbiting the sun.
According to one of the study’s authors, European Southern Observatory astronomer Oliver Hainaut, “Depending on 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 without moving much.”
The strange new comet was given the name C/2014 S3. It was first discovered in 2014 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, or Pan-STARRS. A massive series of telescopes, Pan-STARRS scans the night skies for comets, asteroids and other massive bodies streaking overhead.
The Manx comet C/2014 S3 is unlike most comets that come from the same region, as the majority of them leave a long stream of vaporized ice as they hurtle around the sun. The sun’s light illuminates the tail, creating a radiant display to observers on Earth.
C/2014 S3, unlike other comets in the solar system, contained materials that were similar to those found in the asteroids that populate the massive belt stretching between Mars and Jupiter.
Researchers believe the Manx comet has been traveling around the furthest edges of the solar system for some time, and is likely still deeply frozen from the lack of heat out there.
A press release from the ESO describing the details of the study can be found here.