Rebel comet makes temporary stop near Jupiter’s asteroids

Rebel comet makes temporary stop near Jupiter's asteroids

Trojan Asteroid 2019 LD2. Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, B. Bolin IPAC / Caltech)

The comet comes from the cold and finds an off-piste on its journey to the sun

Long car journeys can be tedious and boring. That’s why many road travelers interrupt their arduous journey by making stops along the way.

Astronomers have discovered that at least one traveling comet does the same. The capricious object made a temporary stop near the giant Jupiter. The frozen visitor has plenty of company: he has settled near the family of captured asteroids known as Trojans that co-orbit the Sun alongside Jupiter.

This is the first time that a comet-like object has been spotted near the population of Trojan asteroids. Observations from the Hubble Space Telescope reveal that the wanderer shows signs of transitioning from an icy body resembling an asteroid to an active comet, germinating a long tail, giving off jets of matter and enveloping itself in a coma of dust and gas.

The intruder came from the frigid outskirts of our solar system, a site nesting comet called the Kuiper Belt. This nomad was probably torn off by the powerful gravity of Jupiter after having grazed the giant planet.

Jupiter’s uninvited guest probably won’t …

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