Comet Interceptor has been approved by the European space agency to analyze the next ‘Oumuamua
THE JESSE WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE will soon have a new neighbour.
The European Space Agency approved a plan this week to land a comet-intercepting spacecraft at the second LaGrange point, or L2.
The Comet Interceptor will launch in 2029 and then orbit the Webb until an as-yet-undiscovered comet flies into its sphere.
at which point it will accomplish exactly what the name implies: intercept the comet.
Comet Interceptor, if successful, will shed light on the origin of our Solar System, the interstellar medium, and may even assist solve a question closer to home.
The Comet Interceptor mission will be the first to (hopefully) visit and study a long-period comet, and preferably, one in “pristine” condition.
This kind of comet is one that is on its first trip inward toward the Sun.
A similarly attractive option would be a drifting interstellar object like ‘Oumuamua, which astronomers discovered in 2017 and is on its way out of our Solar System.