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The far side of Earth's Moon as seen based on data from cameras aboard NASA's robotic Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

It’s a Marvelous Year For a Moondance

Header Image: The far side of Earth’s Moon as seen based on data from cameras aboard NASA’s robotic Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University


Heads up! We’re blasting off into a very SPACE (and Moon) themed weekend.

Today, we kick off World Space Week, which runs from October 4-10. This year’s theme is “The Moon: Gateway to the Stars.” World Space Week is an international effort to celebrate the contributions of space science and technology to the betterment of the human condition. It began as a UN General Assembly resolution on December 6, 1999, and organizations all over the globe participate with events that are open to the public.

Then tomorrow, October 5, it’s International Observe the Moon Night! In an effort to bring everyone on Earth together, International Observe the Moon Night offers a shared opportunity to #LookUp at the Moon in order to observe and learn together. It’s a worldwide celebration of “lunar science and exploration, celestial observation, and our cultural and personal connections to the Moon.”

In short, the Moon is our closest celestial neighbor. And that’s kind of a big deal! It was once just an object of curiosity in the sky, inspiring music, poetry, and other works of art. Then humanity looked through a telescope and saw its surface features, and eventually, we recognized it as a place. A place we could possibly one day visit. And in 1969 we did just that.

5 Fun Facts About the Moon

It’s fun to wax poetically about the Moon (ha!). And just for fun, here are five fun facts about our celestial neighbor:

  1. 1. Despite popular belief, there is no far side of the Moon. It’s a myth! Both sides of the Moon see the same amount of sunlight, but due to the Moon being tidally locked to Earth, only one side of the Moon is ever seen from our home planet. The side we consider the “far side” can only be seen from a spaceship!
  2. 2. The Moon is moving away from Earth at about the same rate as your fingernails are growing. Every year, the Moon moves roughly 3.78 cm further away from Earth. In just 3,000 years, the Moon will take one extra second to orbit the Earth than it does today.
  3. 3. Footprints on the Moon will last thousands of years. Why? Because the Moon has no atmosphere! This means there is no erosion by wind or water. That doesn’t mean they won’t get knocked out by small asteroids or comets, however.
  4. 4. During a lunar eclipse, the surface temperature of the Moon can drop 400℉. This is also due to the lack of atmosphere and the fact that the Earth blocks out light and warmth from the Sun as it passes between the Sun and the Moon during the eclipse.
  5. 5. Chicago’s CTA ‘L’ trains travel 238,900 miles—the average distance to the Moon—in just over one day.

We Love the Moon At the Adler!

We’ve been celebrating the Moon all year here at the Adler—and we’re not done yet! We kicked off the year with a brand new sky show, Imagine the Moon. This exciting show explores how the Moon has inspired human creativity, learning, and exploration ever since we have looked to the sky.

This summer, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, which resulted in humankind’s first steps on the Moon. It’s estimated that it took 400,000+ individuals to make this feat happen; some names you might recognize—like Neil Armstrong—and some you might not—like Reatha Clark King and Robert Davidson. (Find out who these incredible individuals are in our “Voices of Apollo” Google Arts and Culture online exhibition!)

And in April 2020, we’re looking forward to celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 13. With multiple life-threatening challenges facing the crew of Apollo 13, the astronauts and the team on the ground worked together to solve an almost insurmountable challenge—and the crew made it home safely. We look forward to celebrating this story of human ingenuity and perseverance with our community next year—stay tuned for details!

So what are you waiting for?! Check out one of the International Observe the Moon nights on NASA’s official website and #LookUp at the Moon for yourself!

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A full carload of visitors is pictured either going into or coming out of the Atwood Sphere.

A (Very) Brief History of the Atwood Sphere

Header Image: A full carload of visitors is pictured either going into or coming out of the Atwood Sphere at the Adler Planetarium. Credit: Adler Planetarium


This November, we’re debuting a brand new 5,000 square foot exhibition called Chicago’s Night Sky.

This exciting new exhibition will be a celebration of Chicago, a reflection on our relationship with the stars, and an exploration of how communities connect to the sky through myth, storytelling, art, science, and literature.

But we can’t talk about our night sky without talking about the historic Atwood Sphere. The Adler is lucky to call itself home to this incredible piece of Chicago history. It is the oldest sky simulator in the world still operating, debuting at the Chicago Academy of Sciences (CAS) in 1913.

Outside a brick building the Atwood Sphere stands assembled with an open wooden door at the bottom. A man is standing to the right. c. 1913 Credit: Adler Planetarium

Originally called Atwood Celestial Sphere, the planetarium was designed by Dr. Wallace Atwood, an American geographer and geologist, specifically for CAS with the intent to help others learn about Chicago’s night sky. The commission of the exhibit cost $10,000, the largest dollar amount paid for any one single exhibit element at CAS to date.

The structure is comprised of a large, rotating sphere made of galvanized sheet-metal approximately five meters (~16 ft.) in diameter. 692 perforated holes in the metal sheeting of the dome simulate stars that are in principle visibility to the naked eye from Chicago. (Although only a few can normally be seen nowadays due to light pollution.). An attendant inside the dome operates an apparatus in order to rotate the sphere, showing how the stars seem to move altogether in the sky throughout the night as a result of the Earth’s rotation.

The Sphere spent a couple of decades at CAS, but interest gradually declined from 1930 onwards due to the opening of the more sophisticated Adler Planetarium, which featured the innovative Zeiss projector. During this time, during World War II, the Sphere was placed at the service of the U.S. Naval Reserve Unit stationed on Northwestern University’s Chicago campus for instruction in astronomical navigation.

In 1959, CAS would attempt to make alterations to the Sphere to make it more appealing to the public, including painting the outside to look like a terrestrial globe. These alterations would not be enough to increase public interest. Instead, the Sphere would remain dormant for several decades until it eventually would make its way to the Adler Planetarium in January 1997. As a result of this move, the Adler brought the Sphere back from the obsolescence it had originally contributed to. Since this time, guests have been able to experience Chicago’s two emblematic planetariums in the same place, during a single visit.

Exterior view of the Atwood Sphere in a state of partial construction. Only the bottom two-thirds are assembled. Credit: Adler Planetarium

The Atwood Sphere will play an important role in Chicago’s Night Sky. It will give people the opportunity to relive a part of Chicago’s history and explore our night sky, all while serving as an anchor piece for activities in the surrounding gallery.

But after several years of everyday use here at the Adler, the Atwood Sphere is in need of a little TLC. Michelle Nichols, Adler’s Director of Public Observing, is currently underway in refurbishing the interior of the Sphere. The extensive list of materials needed to complete the job includes some unexpected items, including at least 700 toothpicks, UV paint, an LED blacklight, and scaffolding.

Michelle Nichols stands in the cart of the Atwood Sphere with a vacuum to collect dust as the sphere is painted.
Michelle Nichols stands in the cart of the Atwood Sphere with a vacuum to collect dust as the sphere is painted.

Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks about how these objects were involved in the Atwood Sphere’s restoration process, as well as the debut of Chicago’s Night Sky!

Chicago's Black Women in STEAM blog series | Felicia Davenport

Chicago’s Black Women in STEAM Series: Meet Felicia

Bianca Anderson

“Chicago’s Black Women in STEAM” is a series on The Adler ’Scope that highlights the awesome women of Chicago who are doing amazing things in science, technology, engineering, art, and math fields here in our own community. Meet women of varying ages, backgrounds, and interests and learn their unique stories.


Felicia Davenport
Graduate Research Assistant at Georgia Institute of Technology

A headshot image of this month's Chicago's Black Women in STEAM series feature, Felicia Davenport.
Felicia Davenport

What first sparked your interest in physics and engineering?

My interest in physics and engineering was initially sparked through my experience playing golf, starting around the age of 10. I was always fascinated by the technical details of each move I was making and its importance, which I now know to be the biomechanics of the golf swing.

My sophomore year in high school, I met two new swing coaches who introduced me to a device named the “K-Vest”. Using the K-Vest requires wearing straps containing motion sensors on the wrists, upper-back, and waist. This enabled me to look into the biofeedback, and create a personalized training program for an optimized golf swing.

Shortly after beginning my training with the K-Vest, I was assigned a group research project in my “International Baccalaureate (IB)” physics class, where I collaborated with fellow peers studying chemistry within the IB program. Our project consisted of comparing the composition of top, middle, and lower-tiered golf balls and testing their performance using the K-Vest monitor. We then could determine if the cost of each golf ball was true to its overall value. After presenting this work, I then realized I wanted to continue researching sports and biomechanics.

Can you tell us more about your time at Chicago State University as a physics undergrad? What successes and challenges did you face?

Looking back, I’m highly appreciative of my experience studying physics as an undergrad at Chicago State University (CSU). The department offers different curriculum pathways for preparation for the next stage in your life, and I was pleased to learn there was a Biological Science (BIO) option for physics majors. If being a STEAM student wasn’t difficult enough, I also had to balance the workload of being a member and captain of CSU’s Division I women’s golf team, various campus programs (i.e. Honors College and Learning Assistant (LA) Program), and an undergraduate researcher. An introductory chemistry course in my first semester helped me develop essential skills for studying, time management, and conducting research ethically.

As a smaller institution that has encountered unfortunate financial difficulties, resources were limited throughout the institution, including the classrooms. However, the faculty members were eager to go above-and-beyond in providing opportunities to students which allowed their education to be comparable to and competitive with any other institution. The faculty exposed students to research practices and other valuable experiences early in their academic career to better prepare them. They also encouraged student involvement in Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs at other institutions around the nation during the summer.

I was fortunate to be under the mentorship of Dr. Mel Sabella, who helped generate my exposure to these opportunities and allowed me to take leadership in being the first author in one of my two published research articles. Dr. Archibald Peters helped me in my preparation for graduate school in both the application and transitioning process. It is because of such exemplary faculty members that my experience was unforgettable and I was able to graduate with high honors.

What advice would you give to young girls of color who are interested in pursuing careers in STEAM?

It may sound cliché, but I would advise them to always pursue what they are passionate about and what drives them. If they are unsure, they can research various STEAM fields, look into possible careers that may align with their aspirations, and find people (faculty, students, etc.) who are already working in those fields or careers and reach out with their questions. Coming from someone who was, and sometimes still is, quite hesitant to network and reach out, you never know what opportunity could result from being proactive about your future. What better time to start thinking about your future career goals and aspirations than now?

Also, I feel very fortunate to have attended CSU, which was a Predominantly Black Institution (PBI), so I did not feel out of place studying in STEAM. Because of this, it was not until I started my graduate program this August that I became more proactive in finding student organizations that were designed as safe spaces for both women in engineering and Black graduate students. I’m learning how isolating the experience can be at any stage in pursuing STEAM, so I would advise young girls of color to find support groups or even try to bond with that other girl or person of color in your class so that you know you’re not alone.

Until the academic culture changes, it is true that people of color, especially women, tend to have to work much harder to prove themselves in any path of life, but especially in studying STEAM. You may get challenged and pushed past your limits, but please don’t lose sight of your goals and your self-worth. You are more than capable of doing anything you set your mind to do, just get out there and take charge of your dreams!

If everything went according to plan, what would you hope to be doing in your career in 10 years?

Ultimately, I would love to be a sports scientist. Whether it’s helping research, analyze, and optimize the biomechanical techniques of athletes or helping design and alter equipment to enhance their performance abilities.

I also plan to be an active member of outreach programs to help mentor young students, especially those from underrepresented communities. From an academic standpoint, young students of various backgrounds may be discouraged by surrounding influencers from pursuing STEAM majors if it’s an uncommon career choice within their community. The same deterrence occurs amongst young athletes, who are persuaded against studying in STEAM fields due to heavy time commitments from academics and athletics. This can lead to many students settling on another, and sometimes less desirable, path.

I want to establish and provide resources for those in this predicament to be able to experience the best of both worlds. Additionally, I would promote programs that expose underrepresented students at a young age to innovative research practices and topics to help better prepare them for the future.

Adler Teen Alumni: Heritage, Community, and the Future

Colleen Cesaretti

By Rosalía Lugo, Teen Programs Manager, and Colleen Cesaretti

Header Image: 2017 group photo of Adler Interns, including former Adler Teen, Mia Berrios. Credit: Mia Berrios


Over the years, many teens have passed through our front doors, and in honor of Latinx Heritage Month, we are celebrating two of our stellar former Adler Teens, David Torrejon and Mia Berrios! We interviewed David and Mia about their experience in our Teen Programs, what their heritage means to them, and how the Adler has impacted their lives.

What program(s) did you participate at the Adler Planetarium? 

David: Initially, I became involved with the Adler Planetarium through their volunteer programs as a Teen Special Event Facilitator. Because of my growing interest in astronomy and the supportive relationships I built with the staff and volunteers, my involvement with the Adler grew immensely. I later joined the Adler Planetarium’s Astro Journalist Internship, Summer Internship, Youth Leadership Council as well as the Amplify Steering Committee.

Mia: I participated in the Adler’s High School Summer Internship and was also a volunteer.

What are you currently doing now? 

David: I am an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. I am in the process of working towards my degree in economics through the College of Literature, Sciences and the Arts (LSA).  I am pursuing my passions in public policy and economics through student-led organizations; such as the Michigan Foreign Policy Council and Michigan Economics Society. 

Mia: I am currently a student at Loyola University Chicago double-majoring in environmental science and political science.

Image: David Torrejon working in the lab.
Credit: David Torrejon

Did the work you did at the Adler impact what you are doing now? 

David: Through the projects I became involved in at the Adler, I learned to assist the underserved, under-resourced communities in any way I can. 

Mia: Yes! Working as a light pollution intern in 2017 inspired me to further research human impacts on our beautiful night sky, leading me down the path to study environmental science! My goal is to limit our influence on the planet so that future generations have the chance to witness a lively planet and glistening dark sky full of stars.

What does your heritage mean to you?

David: When I think about heritage, I think about the Mexican traditions, customs, language, and cultures that have been passed down to me by my family. 

Mia: It means family, culture, and home. Without it, I wouldn’t have the strength to keep pushing forward.

Image: David Torrejon and The Aquarius Project team in the lake. Credit: David Torrejon

How do you celebrate your identities, specifically your Latinidad (Latinx, Latin@, Hispanic), in your work or school projects? 

David: I celebrate my Latinidad with my Latinx peers on campus through “La Casa,” which is a student-led organization that creates a safe and welcoming environment for the Latinx student body at the University of Michigan to come together. I have developed a greater appreciation for my Latinidad through “La Casa.” 

Mia: I speak up on the struggles we’ve endured and all the great things Latinx people have achieved. I’m proud of my culture and I love talking about it with others who don’t share my heritage because it empowers me to know that I’m teaching others to be more respectful.

Ever been the first person from your community to do something? If so, what? If not, what would you want it to be?

David: I am a first-generation immigrant and first-generation college student. 

Mia: I want to be the first person in my community to earn a masters degree in environmental science and create a new branch of the local government that focuses on eco-friendly practices and initiatives.

How does your community support your dreams? 

David: As a first-generation college student at the University of Michigan, a predominantly white institution, I depend on my community, which consists of my family, friends, teachers, and mentors, for their endless encouragement and support. They remind me of why I am here and what I am working towards, which only further inspires me to continue to persevere. 

Mia: My community supports my dreams by encouraging me to continue to achieve higher education and follow my own path because many of them were never given the chance to go to college.

The far side of Earth's Moon as seen based on data from cameras aboard NASA's robotic Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

It’s a Marvelous Year For a Moondance

Megan Lothamer

Header Image: The far side of Earth’s Moon as seen based on data from cameras aboard NASA’s robotic Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University


Heads up! We’re blasting off into a very SPACE (and Moon) themed weekend.

Today, we kick off World Space Week, which runs from October 4-10. This year’s theme is “The Moon: Gateway to the Stars.” World Space Week is an international effort to celebrate the contributions of space science and technology to the betterment of the human condition. It began as a UN General Assembly resolution on December 6, 1999, and organizations all over the globe participate with events that are open to the public.

Then tomorrow, October 5, it’s International Observe the Moon Night! In an effort to bring everyone on Earth together, International Observe the Moon Night offers a shared opportunity to #LookUp at the Moon in order to observe and learn together. It’s a worldwide celebration of “lunar science and exploration, celestial observation, and our cultural and personal connections to the Moon.”

In short, the Moon is our closest celestial neighbor. And that’s kind of a big deal! It was once just an object of curiosity in the sky, inspiring music, poetry, and other works of art. Then humanity looked through a telescope and saw its surface features, and eventually, we recognized it as a place. A place we could possibly one day visit. And in 1969 we did just that.

5 Fun Facts About the Moon

It’s fun to wax poetically about the Moon (ha!). And just for fun, here are five fun facts about our celestial neighbor:

  1. 1. Despite popular belief, there is no far side of the Moon. It’s a myth! Both sides of the Moon see the same amount of sunlight, but due to the Moon being tidally locked to Earth, only one side of the Moon is ever seen from our home planet. The side we consider the “far side” can only be seen from a spaceship!
  2. 2. The Moon is moving away from Earth at about the same rate as your fingernails are growing. Every year, the Moon moves roughly 3.78 cm further away from Earth. In just 3,000 years, the Moon will take one extra second to orbit the Earth than it does today.
  3. 3. Footprints on the Moon will last thousands of years. Why? Because the Moon has no atmosphere! This means there is no erosion by wind or water. That doesn’t mean they won’t get knocked out by small asteroids or comets, however.
  4. 4. During a lunar eclipse, the surface temperature of the Moon can drop 400℉. This is also due to the lack of atmosphere and the fact that the Earth blocks out light and warmth from the Sun as it passes between the Sun and the Moon during the eclipse.
  5. 5. Chicago’s CTA ‘L’ trains travel 238,900 miles—the average distance to the Moon—in just over one day.

We Love the Moon At the Adler!

We’ve been celebrating the Moon all year here at the Adler—and we’re not done yet! We kicked off the year with a brand new sky show, Imagine the Moon. This exciting show explores how the Moon has inspired human creativity, learning, and exploration ever since we have looked to the sky.

This summer, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, which resulted in humankind’s first steps on the Moon. It’s estimated that it took 400,000+ individuals to make this feat happen; some names you might recognize—like Neil Armstrong—and some you might not—like Reatha Clark King and Robert Davidson. (Find out who these incredible individuals are in our “Voices of Apollo” Google Arts and Culture online exhibition!)

And in April 2020, we’re looking forward to celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 13. With multiple life-threatening challenges facing the crew of Apollo 13, the astronauts and the team on the ground worked together to solve an almost insurmountable challenge—and the crew made it home safely. We look forward to celebrating this story of human ingenuity and perseverance with our community next year—stay tuned for details!

So what are you waiting for?! Check out one of the International Observe the Moon nights on NASA’s official website and #LookUp at the Moon for yourself!

Orionid meteors appear every year around this time when Earth travels through an area of space littered with debris from Halley’s Comet. Credit: NASA/JPL

Adler Skywatch: October 2019

Karen Donnelly

Header Image: Orionid meteors appear every year around this time when Earth travels through an area of space littered with debris from Halley’s Comet. Credit: NASA/JPL


The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer this month, October 2019. But the longer nights mean more night-sky objects to observe.

During evening twilight this month, the planets Jupiter and Saturn are readily visible in the south-southwest sky during evening twilight. Jupiter is the brighter of the two, situated between the Teapot asterism that marks the constellation Sagittarius and the predominantly S-shaped constellation Scorpius. To the lower-right of Jupiter is the reddish star Antares, the “heart” of Scorpius; and to the left and slightly above Jupiter is the planet Saturn, floating to the left of the Teapot. The evening of the 3rd, Jupiter appears close to the bright edge of a waxing crescent Moon. And the evening of the 5th, Saturn is near the upper-right of the First-Quarter Moon.

For those of you lucky enough to have a clear sight-line to the west-southwest, there’s even more planetary action in store. Soon after sunset, the planets Venus and Mercury are barely above the west-southwest horizon. They are visible for only a short time before they set, following the Sun. Venus is by far the brighter of the two, as it’s also the brightest planet in the night sky; but Mercury is brighter than most of the nearby stars as well. As the Sun sets earlier each day this month, the two planets get a little easier to see in the darkening sky. In the early evening of the 29th, a very slim waxing crescent Moon appears above the two planets.

There is one other planet readily visible to the unaided eye; but this month it’s not visible until morning twilight. Shortly before sunrise, the planet Mars rises in the east. It’s not very bright this month, and it doesn’t get far above the eastern horizon before dawn’s light blots it from view. With the Sun rising later each morning this month, Mars gets a little higher in the sky and easier to see before sunrise.

The annual Orionids meteor shower peaks this month the night of the 21st into the early-morning darkness of the 22nd. The waning crescent Moon rises shortly after midnight, causing some light interference in meteor viewing. As always, the darker the sky the better the viewing; so if you plan to look for Orionids, find a place away from artificial lights. No special equipment is needed to view meteors—just find a clear place and look up.

A maximum of perhaps ten Orionid meteors per hour is expected if skies are very dark and very clear.

First Quarter Moon: October 5th
Full Moon: October 13th
Last Quarter Moon: October 21st
New Moon: October 28th

Please note that these descriptions are for the Chicago area, using Central time.

Image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

AstroFan: The Comet That Came From Afar

Bianca Anderson

Header Image: While C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) is too far away for us to get detailed images, it probably looks something like this image taken on March 27, 2016, by the Rosetta spacecraft, 329 km from the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image measures 28.7 km across. Image Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NavCam


The Day the Adler Met an Interstellar Comet

On September 12, 2019, astronomers announced the detection of a brand new comet—a visitor from afar that had found itself within a detectable distance from Earth. 

The following day, the Adler Planetarium was abuzz with excitement regarding our Solar System’s newest visitor. 

You see, one of the perks of working at a planetarium that hosts a fully staffed astronomy department, is that you get to be among the first people to learn about breaking news from the world of space-science.

In my short time at the Adler (almost a year!), I have been lucky enough to witness FOUR breaking space-science news moments. It is during these moments of excitement that I truly cherish the fact that I work at such a cultural hub for some of the most cutting-edge ideas in astronomy. 

Today’s AstroFan is going to focus on this latest discovery—an interstellar comet called C/2019 Q4 (Borisov). But first… let’s cover some of the basics about comets. 

What Exactly is a Comet?

Anatomy of a comet

Comets are celestial objects that are composed primarily of ice, rock, and gas. There are four main components to a comet: a nucleus, a coma, dust tail, and ion tail.

The nucleus is made up of ice and rocky materials and can range from 10 to 100 km in diameter. The nucleus is surrounded by the coma, which is a cloud of gases that forms around the nucleus as it is heated. The gases are normally a mix of water vapor, ammonia, and carbon dioxide.

A comet’s dust tail is made of very small (one micron) dust particles that have evaporated from the nucleus. The ion tail is the part of the comet that is always facing away from the Sun, it forms when gas from the comet is ionized by solar radiation 

An animated image of a cartoon comet in the sky, with a long tail streaming behind it.

There are thousands and thousands of known comets in our Solar System—but so far there have only been two comets discovered that are believed to have come from outside of our Solar System—which brings us to C/2019 Q4 (Borisov)!

Introducing C/2019 Q4 (Borisov)

C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) was scouted in August 30, 2019, at the MARGO observatory in Nauchnij, Crimea. There are two facts about C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) that have led scientists to believe that it is from outside of our Solar System:

1. The object is moving at a speed (93,000 mph to be exact!) much higher than the velocities of the types of objects that orbit the Sun. In fact, the velocity is so high that the Sun’s gravity isn’t strong enough to keep the comet from flying away!

2. Many of the objects in our Solar System orbit in the same flat plane, C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) is coming in at almost 45 degrees off of that plane. 

Check out the awesome visualization below to see the orbit of C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) in action!


A visualization that shows the 45 degree orbit of C/2019 Q4 (Borisov)—the red colored orbit—in relation to the orbits of the planets in our Solar System.
This visualization shows the orbit of C/2019 Q4 (Borisov)—the red colored orbit—in relation to the orbits of the planets in our Solar System. Image Credit: Tony Dunn

The comet will be close enough to Earth for scientists to make observations until October 2020, after that it will be too far to study. 

Since C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) is from another solar system, it will give astronomers the chance to compare its composition to comets from our own Solar System to see if there are any major similarities and differences.

The really cool thing about comets is that they are essentially time capsules that act as a chemical record of the places they were made in. This means that astronomers will have a firsthand look into what other solar systems are composed of!

An animated image of Bill Nye "The Science Guy" with the word "Science!!!" flashing in front of him.

Did you know that some astronomers believe that comets are partially the reason why life on Earth began?

In recent years, comets have been found to contain amino acids like glycine, a key component to the building blocks of life. 

Some also theorize that Earth’s oceans formed as a result of icy comets bombarding the Earth’s surface and delivering large quantities of water in the process. 

An artist's rendition of a rocky planet being bombarded by comets.
This artwork shows a rocky planet being bombarded by comets. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Think about this for a second…

Our interstellar visitor, C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) could be on its way to another distant solar system, where a young Earth-like planet patiently waits for the ingredients of life to be delivered to it. 

An animated image of a cartoon Earth smiling and growing a single tree.

Wherever C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) ends up, scientists here on Earth will be eagerly observing the comet over the next year, before it goes back to being beyond our sight—forever. 

Stay tuned for more awesome space facts on the next AstroFan.

Thank you for reading!

—Bianca, a.k.a. AstroFan


A special thanks to Adler astronomer Dr. Geza Gyuk for providing information about C/2019 Q4 (Borisov)!

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