The stars were aligned for astronomer Genmady Borisov when he went stargazing and discovered something miraculous. As he glanced into his telescope, he found an interstellar comet. This comet was named after its founder and thus C/2019 Q4 Borisov was born.
The term interstellar refers to the space between stars. C/2019 Q4 Borisov is the second interstellar comet in existence that astronomers are aware of, the first being ‘Omuamua which was found in 2017. Although both comets are interstellar, they are different in nature, a fact that leaves both scientists and astronomers fascinated.
These comets are considered interstellar due to the nature of their orbit. Interstellar comets are influenced by our sun’s gravity but unlike regular comets they are not bound to it. Interstellar comets can enter into our solar system’s gravity and then swing back out into interstellar space.
In Chattanooga, stars, comets, and all the things that make up our galaxy are observed by the Bernard Astronomical Society of Chattanooga. The society was founded in 1923 after University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Professor Edward Emerson Barnard decided that people should study the galaxy. The Society now consists of members that observe the stars through a planetarium, teach astronomy, and hold star parties where the community can all meet to observe the stars.
The society meets every second Thursday of the month at the Clarence T. Jones Observatory in Brainerd. The society’s President Patrick Sick believes that, “We are in the golden age of astronomy.” In continuing to study the stars, we become aware of who we are in relation to the galaxy. In this golden age of astronomy, keeping the study alive is a passion of Patrick’s.
The society is celebrating 90 years, and each new discovery keeps the study alive and exciting. C/2019 Q4 Borisov, is just a step into the vast discoveries yet to come for astronomers like Borisov and Sick. With interstellar comets being discovered who knows what will be next and what we’ll discover in space.
— Podcast by Connor Brown
Meet the Storytellers
Connor Brown is an audio producer, content writer and photographer pursuing a degree in Communication at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Much of his work draws inspiration from his passion for film as well as the odd moments of everyday life. He can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org
Marielle Echavez is a senior studying Communication and Psychology. She is both a staff writer and photographer for the University Echo but is most passionate about videography. She plans to pursue video production post-graduation. Some of her work is displayed on @mariellejaimedia on Instagram and can be contacted at email@example.com.
Jillian Stewart is a Junior at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga studying Communications with a minor in Religion. She is passionate about telling others stories using visual media. She enjoys a good cup of coffee on a rainy day and true crime podcasts. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sloane Logan is a Senior studying Marketing with a dual minor in Communication and Design Foundations at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She is passionate about exploring new territories and learning. She enjoys listening to the rain on the windows of a coffee shop and the sound of a camera click in her hands. You can contact her at email@example.com.