The Latest on Exocomets

Image (Credit): Artist’s drawing of exocomets around the young Beta Pictoris. (NASA/FUSE/Lynette Cook)

We have all heard about exoplanets and exomoons, but what about exocomets? It appears the bodies we can observe outside of our solar system are getting even smaller. In a Scientific American article, “Ukrainian Astronomers Discover ‘Exocomets’ around Another Star,” we learn about Ukrainian astronomers who found five such comets using data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

The comets in question orbit the young star Beta Pictoris, which is about 65 light-years from Earth. This is not the first time comments were detected in this distant solar system’s debris disk. The researchers confirmed those earlier sighting as well. The planet-forming debris surrounding the star presents plenty of opportunities for comet sightings.

Such findings, using information from both the Kepler Space Telescope and TESS, continue to expand our understanding of these objects. Once we focus the James Webb Space Telescope on these little bodies, it should get even more interesting.

Extra: You can find the 2019 Astronomy article on the exocomets around Beta Pictoris here.