New Spacecraft Will Seek Solar System Visitors

A European Space Agency mission hopes to track interstellar objects

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By: Scientific American

The European Space Agency announced on June 19 that an intrepid spacecraft will aim to greet one of the next interstellar objects to visit our solar system. As Scientific American reports, Comet Interceptor will await potential targets at Lagrange point 2, the gravitational “Goldilocks” zone where spacecraft can hover using minimal fuel. Scientists hope the mission, set to launch in 2028, will shed light on the formation of the universe.

Comet Interceptor will not land on its target, but the spacecraft will be equipped with smaller drones that can split off and zip closer to inspect the mysterious visitor. Understanding what such long-period interstellar objects are made of and where they come from can help scientists learn more about how and when the universe formed. Finding the perfect target will be challenging and there is a chance that no comet or other object will come within the spacecraft’s range. But astronomers have already begun scanning the skies for potential objects that may slip past the rendezvous point. 

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