back to article Hubble grabs first snap of interstellar comet... or at least that's what we hope this smudge is

Astroboffins have released images taken by the Hubble telescope of the second-ever interstellar object and the first-ever verified comet to enter our Solar System from the depths of the universe. Dubbed comet 2I/Borisov, the speeding bundle of rock and dust was detected back in August by Crimean hobbyist Gennady Borisov and …

  1. Winkypop Silver badge
    Alien

    Something wicked, this way comes?

    Co-incy-dink?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Something wicked, this way comes?

      They have spotted us and are now seeing what we do about these interlopers

  2. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Couple of things

    1. If the smudge *isn't* a comet,.. well, look at it. It's a comet unless it's a flying saucer ejecting an awful lot of non-recyclable waste.

    2. There's a Bulgarian football joke somewhere in Comet Borisov, but I for one ain't going there.

    1. Ragarath
      Joke

      Re: Couple of things

      They just needed to use the toilet. All that waste has to so somewhere!

    2. MiguelC Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Couple of things

      No Bulgarian joke in it as the fellow is Ukrainian (note to ElReg, you wouldn't classify anyone as West Midlandian or East Anglian in an article, so why Crimean?)

      1. Semtex451 Silver badge

        Re: Couple of things

        Oh Russia gave it back did they?

        -This is why.

        1. MiguelC Silver badge

          Re: Couple of things

          No they didn't, but according to international law and United Nations Resolution 68/262, it is still part of Ukraine. Doesn't matter what Russia thinks.

      2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Couple of things

        Yeah, what's wrong with just calling him a Ukrainian?

        1. arctic_haze Silver badge

          Re: Couple of things

          What's wrong with calling him Ukrainian? The Russians have a long history of telling people they are Russian. Some times ago it were the Finns and Poles, not it is the Belorussians and Ukrainians.

  3. sbt Silver badge
    Headmaster

    110,000 miles per hour

    Licence and registration, sir.

    Given it's a science article, shouldn't this be ~49 kms-1?

    1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

      Re: 110,000 miles per hour

      Was the original estimate ~50kms-1 because that's a nice round number?

      1. sbt Silver badge
        Boffin

        Rounded, but not obese

        It's a fair question, but not that I could find. Only the MPH figure seems to have been quoted in the source article, and I chose 49 when converting as having similar precision/significant figures.

        El Reg's off the SI hook, anyway.

      2. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

        Re: 110,000 miles per hour

        Same goes for closest approach: 186 million miles should actually read 300 million kilometres.

        Journos shouldn't convert units, they almost always make things worse. I fully expect that some other journo will read this article and convert the units back again and introduce unfeasible accuracy.

        Source article which says 300 million kilometres:

        https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/09/13/tut_you_wait_a_lifetime_for_an_interstellar_object_and_then_two_come_at_once/

        1. Annihilator
          Trollface

          Re: 110,000 miles per hour

          "Same goes for closest approach: 186 million miles should actually read 300 million kilometres."

          I prefer 1 kilolightsecond.

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: 110,000 miles per hour

            Heavy light?

          2. Semtex451 Silver badge

            Re: 110,000 miles per hour

            Same goes for "enter our Solar System from the depths of the universe" when it's from inside our own Galaxy.

            1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
              Childcatcher

              Re: 110,000 miles per hour

              Same goes for "enter our Solar System from the depths of the universe" when it's from inside our own Galaxy.

              Unless the intended subtext is that we are really the dregs of what the universe has to offer in which case it's spot on.

          3. Jaybus

            Re: 110,000 miles per hour

            "I prefer 1 kilolightsecond."

            I don't. It's just so confusing to use C as a distance measurement. Now the relativistic affects of the Sun's gravity well affect the distance measurement and we cannot know both its position and velocity relative to Earth at the same time....wait, that is actually correct, so yes, let's use lightseconds as our distance measurement.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: 110,000 miles per hour

              It's confusing, maybe, but it's how we define distance - a metre is defined as the distance light travels in 1 299792458th of a second. With a second being defined by something to do with caesium.

        2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

          Re: 110,000 miles per hour

          There's a message here - closest approach is EXACTLY the same as the diameter of the Earth's orbit - they want to be certain we get the message. Next time it's one radius, then the third time it's Extinction time! Time to shut down all our space activity and worship our new interstellar overlords.

          1. sbt Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            For some values of EXACTLY?

            Perihelion is reported as 2.006 AU.

            1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
              Joke

              How the Internet works, lesson no. 94

              >> There's a message here - closest approach is EXACTLY the same as the diameter of the Earth's orbit - they want to be certain we get the message.

              > Perihelion is reported as 2.006 AU.

              There's a message here - closest approach is EXACTLY twice the diameter of the Earth's orbit - they want to be certain we get the message

              1. Palpy

                Re: Diameter versus radius

                1 AU = the approximate distance from Earth to Sun, or, from Sun to Earth. In other words, the radius of Earth's obit. Wait, too early for an obit on Earth -- I must have meant orbit.

                The interstellar comet's perihelion is, as mentioned, 2.006 AU. Twice the radius of Earth's orbit. Or, in flat spacetime, nearly exactly the diameter of Earth's orbit. As stated by Pen-y-gors.

                Picky, picky, I am, but mean to cast no aspersions on commentards various.

                But certainly if They wish to warn us they'll take out the Moon first? That would get our attention. I would guess Earth would gain a lovely ring of dust and pebbles but most likely no human eyeballs would get to see it because enough rocks would be de-orbited in the chaos that a fiery rain of meteors would turn Earth's sky into a broiler oven.

                1. HelpfulJohn

                  Re: Diameter versus radius

                  As I may have mentioned when Rama I passed by a while back, "Moonfall" by Jack McDevitt is a rather good read.

        3. JK63

          Re: 110,000 miles per hour

          The byline lists San Francisco, so it's possible they were using US units thinking of a US audience.

          But science should always be reported in metric units.

          1. Jaybus

            Re: 110,000 miles per hour

            "But science should always be reported in metric units."

            Why? Simply report the distance in lightseconds so that it is correct for all units of measurement and conversions have little meaning or purpose.

            1. Muscleguy Silver badge

              Re: 110,000 miles per hour

              Why? because even in ‘Merican science labs they use SI units. Which can be a shock for US undergrads. I grew up in little New Zealand from early 1972 and they had been fully metric for several years by that time so I was educated entirely in metric. So becoming a scientist was not hard in that aspect. I looked up where Angstroms lie wrt nm or pm but as an electron microscopist I NEVER used it or saw on any paper newer than about 1960. Clean powers of 10/-3 do perfectly fine thankyou.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: 110,000 miles per hour

              "Why? Simply report the distance in lightseconds so that it is correct for all units of measurement and conversions have little meaning or purpose."

              That assumes that everyone understands and agrees on what a second is. Microsoft employees might have difficulties converting, especially the devs in charge of progress bars.

    2. KarMann
      Joke

      Re: 110,000 miles per hour

      Surely you mean 1.64% of the maximum velocity of a sheep in a vacuum?

      1. quxinot Silver badge

        Re: 110,000 miles per hour

        Wool at that speed would give one hellacious static shock when it gets near a doorknob.

    3. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: 110,000 miles per hour

      Wikipedia says it's 32 km/s. So... Make of that what you will

      I'll stick to Reg approved units. So 1.0674 to 1.6344 % the maximum velocity of a sheep in vacuum.

      1. sbt Silver badge
        Alien

        Rolling around the gravity well

        There's certainly a difference. I think the Wikipedia number is the velocity when the object was outside Sol's gravitational influence, whereas the larger figure is a report of the current velocity, while it's well inside. I assume it'll be even quicker when December 8 rolls around.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Rolling around the gravity well

          "I assume it'll be even quicker when December 8 rolls around."

          So, not actually visiting, just passing through and stealing a bit of "our" angular momentum. Bloody foreigners! Vote for Solexit!!!

    4. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: 110,000 miles per hour

      So that's 2billion years from Andromeda - assuming it hasn't speeded up 'near' the sun - and ignoring the expansion of the universe.

      I'd imagine any documentation would have expired.

      1. Semtex451 Silver badge

        Re: 110,000 miles per hour

        Andromeda is getting closer to us all the time, in 2 billion years it will be very close

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: 110,000 miles per hour

          So presumably accelerating?

    5. circusmole
      Happy

      110,000 MPH ...

      ...relative to?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 110,000 MPH ...

        A distant relation of mine.

        It's my third cousin's brothers daughter.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: 110,000 MPH ...

          IS there something special about your third cousin's brother or his he just a third cousin?

    6. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: 110,000 miles per hour

      "But relative to the galactic core office, I was only doing about 20!!!"

  4. Rich 11 Silver badge
    Alien

    Let's hope...

    ...it doesn't start braking.

    1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge
      Joke

      Re: Let's hope...

      Judging from the dust, it's already breaking ;-)

  5. Crisp Silver badge

    "based on its trajectory and speed, the comet had to originate from outside the Solar System"

    Who threw that?

    I say we start flinging snowballs back.

    1. Annihilator

      Re: "based on its trajectory and speed, the comet had to originate from outside the Solar System"

      It's clearly been launched by the Arachnids and is set to obliterate Buenos Aires. In order to claim citizenship and reap revenge on these "bugs", I've signed up to the Mobile Infantry and have been assigned to some unit called "the Roughnecks"?

      1. Craig 2 Silver badge

        Re: "based on its trajectory and speed, the comet had to originate from outside the Solar System"

        Would you like to know more?

  6. Chris G Silver badge

    Trying to get my head around

    " Throwing off a trail of dust and debris as it passed by the sun" and "will be closest to the sun on Dec 7".

    Has it been or is it going? Or does it have a cat inside?

    1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

      Re: Trying to get my head around

      Yes and no.

  7. Blockchain commentard Silver badge
    Alien

    They're getting this excited about an inter-stellar comet? Wait until they spot the inter-stellar spaceship following it.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aliens?

    There was an article in the "Daily Express" about somewhere in Wales being a UFO hotspot.

    Also why would aliens use Wifi? Surely they have moved well beyond using radio waves, thought the latest concept was coherent neutrino beams? Can go 500 light years and still be detected, but show up on "lesser" species radar as astronomical phenomena.

    Maybe the fast radio bursts are beacons telling folks where the interesting sights are, or adverts for "Extend your Pseudopods with this One Weird Trick" intergalactic spammage.

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Aliens?

      There was an article in the "Daily Express" about somewhere in Wales being a UFO hotspot.

      If it was in the Excess it presumably suggested that Maddie McCann was also living in the hotspot, and that the water from the local stream cures cancer?

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Aliens?

      Not that I would read the DE even on the vain hope there might be some useful data but I'd imagine any mining area would be a UFO hotspot. Earth fractures seem to cause luminous phenomena above ground - some piezo electric effect seems to cause electromagnetic loops that, above ground can focus in damp air and cause low level aurora. the phenomena is often seen along earthquake faults and mines do lots of mini earthquakes as they continue to settle.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Aliens?

      "There was an article in the "Daily Express" about somewhere in Wales being a UFO hotspot."

      One of the subs probably caught part of a Torchwood episode and thought it was a documentary.

      1. Annihilator

        Re: Aliens?

        To paraphrase David Tennant, isn't it remarkable that so many alien homeworlds look just like a Welsh quarry?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Aliens?

          That was a running joke from the days of Jon Pertwees Doctor #3 (although not Welsh quarries back then)

  9. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Is it a comet?

    I wonder if it might have picked up a coating of interstellar ice and dust on its journey. As it approaches the sun this may just all boil off to leave a lump of rock. This may have happened to Oumuamua.

    Whatever I shall be breaking out the 16" as soon as it looks like it wont get filled with rain.

    1. OssianScotland Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Is it a comet?

      You have a gun from the USS Iowa?

      (coat, please, the one with the stripes on the sleeve)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You have a gun from the USS Iowa?

        Or maybe it's one from the USS Missouri, and so he's also got Cher holding an umbrella to help keep the rain off. :-)

        1. ma1010 Silver badge
          Pirate

          Re: You have a gun from the USS Iowa?

          Well, this is a Left-Pondian viewpoint, but, you know, Dec 7 was the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, bringing the US into WW II. And they say this object is making its closest approach to the sun the SAME DAY?

          That begs the question, is this REALLY just a coincidence? That's what THEY want you to believe, of course. (Putting on my tinfoil hat and heading off to my mountain bunker complex.)

      2. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

        Re: Is it a comet?

        A sixteen incher is a gun? Thank Dog for that...

      3. Jaybus

        Re: Is it a comet?

        "You have a gun from the USS Iowa?"

        Naturally. With ehat else would one fight the Yamato after it has been remade into a spaceship?

  10. DJO Silver badge

    Move along, nothing to see

    It's just the mothership for the probe we named Oumuamua, nothing to be excited about.

    1. sawatts

      Re: Move along, nothing to see

      Oumumamuma?

    2. aks Bronze badge

      ʻOumuamua

      It's all in the name https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%CA%BBoumuamua#Hawaiian

      ʻoumuamua

      scout; leader (as in battle or activity); messenger

  11. Steve Graham

    It's the second interstellar object to be detected by humans, not "the second interstellar object". They've been flying past for billions of years.

    1. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

      Technically correct...

      ... the best kind of correct. </Hermes Conrad>

  12. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Pint

    Have a beer..

    ..for the Rendezvous With Rama reference. A rather underrated Clarke series IMHO.

    1. IsJustabloke
      Meh

      Re: Have a beer..

      "A rather underrated Clarke"

      Only the first was by ACC, the rest ( and vastly inferior) books were mainly the work of Gentry Lee, with Clarkes name added to show they were "official" but he had no hand in the writing of them.

      Gentry Lee was / is an appallingly bad writer. Every single book is in essence the same, shockingly bad "Romance novel" set in a Sci Fi universe.

      1. sawatts

        Re: Have a beer..

        Rendezvous with Rama was brilliant.

        Rama II is the only novel I've skipped over whole chapters when reading.

        Didn't go further with the "series".

      2. RizKat
        Linux

        Re: Have a beer..

        Interesting - I read the first years ago and having enjoyed it got the sequel then never finished it as I thought it was crap.

        City and the Stars and Rendezvous with Rama were great books, but I struggle with his bringing in the unknowable supreme omnipotence (god equivalent) in most of his big works.

        1. Ardly

          Re: Have a beer..

          Fountains of Paradise is brilliant. One of his best!!

  13. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Alien

    Didn't anyone else watch Star Blazers?

    It's the Comet Empire!! Fortunately, they are ultimately about as comically inept as the Gamalons.

  14. Snowy Silver badge
    Joke

    Hope that smudge is not two tails.

    May Sigmar help us if it is.

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