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Exocomets from a Solar System Perspective

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Paul A. Strøm
  • Dennis Bodewits
  • Matthew M. Knight
  • Flavien Kiefer
  • Geraint H. Jones
  • Quentin Kral
  • Luca Matrà
  • Eva Bodman
  • Maria Teresa Capria
  • Ilsedore Cleeves
  • Alan Fitzsimmons
  • Nader Haghighipour
  • John H. D. Harrison
  • Daniela Iglesias
  • Mihkel Kama
  • Harold Linnartz
  • Liton Majumdar
  • Ernst J. W. de Mooij
  • Stefanie N. Milam
  • Cyrielle Opitom
  • Isabel Rebollido
  • Laura K. Rogers
  • Clara Sousa-Silva
  • Siyi Xu
  • Zhong-Yi Lin
  • Sebastian Zieba

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Original languageEnglish
Article number101001
JournalPublications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Issue number1016
Early online date16 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


Exocomets are small bodies releasing gas and dust which orbit stars other than the Sun. Their existence was first inferred from the detection of variable absorption features in stellar spectra in the late 1980s using spectroscopy. More recently, they have been detected through photometric transits from space, and through far-IR/mm gas emission within debris disks. As (exo)comets are considered to contain the most pristine material accessible in stellar systems, they hold the potential to give us information about early stage formation and evolution conditions of extra Solar Systems. In the Solar System, comets carry the physical and chemical memory of the protoplanetary disk environment where they formed, providing relevant information on processes in the primordial solar nebula. The aim of this paper is to compare essential compositional properties between Solar System comets and exocomets. The paper aims to highlight commonalities and to discuss differences which may aid the communication between the involved research communities and perhaps also avoid misconceptions. Exocomets likely vary in their composition depending on their formation environment like Solar System comets do, and since exocomets are not resolved spatially, they pose a challenge when comparing them to high fidelity observations of Solar System comets. Observations of gas around main sequence stars, spectroscopic observations of "polluted" white dwarf atmospheres and spectroscopic observations of transiting exocomets suggest that exocomets may show compositional similarities with Solar System comets. The recent interstellar visitor 2I/Borisov showed gas, dust and nuclear properties similar to that of Solar System comets. This raises the tantalising prospect that observations of interstellar comets may help bridge the fields of exocomet and Solar System comets.

    Research areas

  • astro-ph.EP, astro-ph.SR

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