Guys, Look Up! In the sky! Woah, it’s a comet... no, It's an asteroid... Actually, what the hell is it? A strange object will zip past Earth in February. Its characteristics are so strange that even the best researcher over at NASA can't figure out what exactly this object is.
The object, called 2016 WF9, was discovered by NASA’s asteroid-and-comet-hunting NEOWISE mission on November 27, 2016. NEOWISE researchers consider that it might be as big as 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) wide. It’s projected to make its closest approach to Earth’s orbit on February 25 at a distance of 51 million kilometers (32 million miles).
This strange object is raising few concerns among NASA scientists, as they can’t really tell if it’s a comet or an asteroid. Asteroidsare rocky or more metallic, while comets tend be icier. This object seems to be dark and unreflective, which is usually means it is a comet. Despite that, some other basics characteristics of comets are missing like dust and gas cloud that defines a comet. This absence also means the object has an unfamiliar source.
Deputy Principal Investigator James "Gerbs" Bauer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement:
2016 WF9 could have cometary origins. 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.
NEOWISE also spotted another object that they know more about. Last year, they also discovered C/2016 U1, a comet that is traveling to Earth right now.
It will be easily observable from the Northern Hemisphere during the first week of 2017 in the southeastern sky throughout the hours before sunrise. You can also see it with a decent pair of binoculars, if the cloud coverage and changeable brightness of the comet is promising.