According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a wayward comet-like object has been spotted near the family of ancient asteroids.
“The object has settled near a family of captured ancient asteroids, called Trojans,” NASA said on its website. The object has been orbiting the Sun alongside Jupiter.
The US space agency said the object belongs to “a class of icy bodies found in space between Jupiter and Neptune” called Centaurs. The object has been captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
NASA said the “vagabond object shows signs of comet activity, such as a tail, outgassing in the form of jets, and an enshrouding coma of dust and gas.”
Hubble researcher Bryce Bolin of Caltech in Pasadena, California said: “The visitor had to have come into the orbit of Jupiter at just the right trajectory to have this kind of configuration that gives it the appearance of sharing its orbit with the planet. We’re investigating how it was captured by Jupiter and landed among the Trojans. But we think it could be related to the fact that it had a somewhat close encounter with Jupiter.”
NASA said the “nomadic object” was first spotted two years ago after Japanese amateur astronomer Seiichi Yoshida tipped off the Hubble team to possible comet activity.
The space agency then scanned data to find the object in fact existed. NASA said the “unexpected guest” will not stay among the asteroid for very long after conducting computer simulations.