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Comet flyby: Amateur astronomer discovers a new celestial body – What are comets made of? | Science | News

Japanese astronomer Masayuki Iwamoto of Tokushima Prefecture has been discovered a new comet in the solar system. The new celestial object was found low in the eastern sky on January 9 at 11.20am GMT (8.20pm JST).

The comet discovery was communicated to the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

The comet is believed to have also been discovered independently by fellow astrology hobbyist Gennady Borisov in Crimea.

This cosmic object was confirmed to be a comet following expert analysis of observations.

The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan said in a statement: “The orbit, designation, and name of the new comet will be announced later.”

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The latest discovery means Mr Iwamoto has now discovered four comets.

The other three comets were discovered in rapid succession in November and December of 2018.

Japanese amateur astronomers are believed to be at the forefront in making such contributions to the field of astronomy.

The discovery coincides with the news of the first new comet of the year crashing into the Sun soon after its discovery.

Dr Karl Battams, who runs NASA’s Sungrazing Comets Project at the Naval Research Laboratory, tweeted how the first new comet discovered in 2020 has already been vaporised.

Dr Battams also shared some footage of the comets final moments from NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).

Kreutz sungrazers are the remains of a family of comets left over from a giant comet that broke-up into hundreds of smaller bits centuries ago.

A number of the resulting mini-comets are spotted every year.

Dr Battams told Spaceweather.com: “It’s actually quite unusual that it has taken 13 days for SOHO to find a comet.

“This is the furthest we’ve gone into a new calendar year without a discovery since 2008.”

What are comets made of?

Comets are icy bodies trailing gas and dust as they travel through space.

Comets have previously been compared to dirty snowballs, although recent research has led some scientists to call them “snowy dirtballs”.

Comets primarily contain dust, ice, carbon dioxide, ammonia and methane.

Experts think comets are leftovers from material that initially formed the solar system approximately 4.6 billion years ago.

Some researchers suggest comets might have originally brought some of the water and organic molecules to Earth that now constitute life.

The Rosetta mission landed a probe on a comet in November 2014 to study this hypothesis.

Rosetta is examining the comet’s nucleus and environment and observing how the body evolves as it approaches the Sun.

Some comets orbit our star, but most are believed to inhabit an area known as the distant Oort Cloud, far beyond Pluto’s orbit.

A comet can occasionally barrel through the inner solar system; some do so regularly, some only once every few centuries.


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