Scientists detect interstellar water in alien comet, could help to unveil secrets of life

If water is confirmed in this interstellar comet, it will help scientists to know more about the origin of life in the universe

Interstellar comet
The first color image of the comet C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), was captured by the Gemini North telescope at Hawaii's Mauna Kea. Gemini North acquired four 60-second exposures in two color bands (red and green). The blue and red lines are background stars moving in the background. Gemini Observatory/NSF/AURA/Travis Rector

It was around a few weeks back that astronomer Gennady Borisov discovered an interstellar comet which was later named 2I/Borisov. Now, researchers who have been analyzing the comet since its discovery have now found that it is releasing water vapour as it zooms closer to us from light-years away.

Scientists who made these findings have now submitted their research to the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters for publication. If the presence of water vapour is confirmed in 2I/Borisov, it will be the first time water from another planetary system gets detected in the solar system.

The study led by Adam McKay from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland used an advanced instrument at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico to learn more about the comet Borisov's reflection of light. During the study, researchers discovered large amounts of oxygen around this interstellar comet, and they believe that it could be the result of water ice turning from solid to gas as it gets heated by the sun.

As per the research team's current analysis, this interstellar comet is now producing up to 19 kilograms of water per second. Even though scientists have spotted traces of water in exoplanets outside the solar system, this is for the first time that humans are witnessing water from another planetary system this close.

"Are we special as a planetary system or are a lot of planetary systems like ours? That has implications for the origin of life, and how common life is throughout the universe," said McKay, New Scientist reports.

It should be noted that 2I/Borisov is the second interstellar visitor that visited our solar system, and the first one being 'Oumuamua', a bizarre cigar-shaped object. The discovery of Oumuamua had also triggered debates in the world of science when Avi Loeb, a researcher at Harvard University claimed that this object could be an alien probe.