As it turns out, a mysterious object will pass by Earth next month. The strange thing is that its characteristics are so freakishly unusual, that no one can seem to figure out what exactly it is.
Dubbed 2016 WF9, the object was pinpointed fairly recently in the sky by NASA’s asteroid-and-comet-hunting NEOWISE project on November 27, 2016.
What experts at NEOWISE do know is that it COULD be as large as one kilometer in diameter.
Astronomers expect that 2016 WF9 will make its closest approach to our planet’s orbit on February 25 when it will pass at a distance of 51 million kilometers.
So far, the enigmatic object has created great confusion among experts at NASA. Experts can’t seem to figure out what the object is exactly. Is it an asteroid? Is it a comet?
So what do we know about the object?
Well, there is a general guideline when it comes to identifying objects and asteroids.
Asteroids are usually rocky and or more metallic in nature why comets are generally icier.
The object dubbed 2016WF9 seems to be extremely DARK and unreflective –a telltale sign that it could be a comet— however, it lacks all other characteristics typical of comets such as dust and gas.
What is even more bizarre is that fact that this means that the origin of the objects is UNKNOWN.
“2016 WF9 could have cometary origins,” Deputy Principal Investigator James “Gerbs” Bauer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement.
“This object illustrates that the boundary between asteroids and comets is a blurry one; perhaps over time this object has lost the majority of the volatiles that linger on or just under its surface.”
Interestingly, the folks over at NEOWISE did manage to pinpoint another object which they know more about when they discovered C/2016 U1, a comet that is making its way across our solar system.
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