Gif: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A comet discovered at the end of August is just the second interstellar object spotted on a path through our solar system, but scientists think it may be a harbinger of more to come.

What's happening: According to a new study accepted for publication by The Astrophysical Journal Letters, astronomers should expect that at least a few, large interstellar objects will fly through our solar system each year.

Why it matters: These objects, which include this year's 2I/Borisov — formerly called C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) — and 2017's 'Oumuamua, represent the best chance scientists have to study material from distant solar systems at close range.

  • By learning more about comets and asteroids from elsewhere in the galaxy, researchers might be able to figure out just how unique our solar system is.

Details: The new study suggests that interstellar objects may be flung out of their solar systems during the planet formation process.

  • The authors of the study found that planets that form far from their star may eject a fair amount of material from their home solar systems, sending them out through interstellar space.
  • “This idea nicely explains the high density of these objects drifting in interstellar space, and it shows that we should be finding up to hundreds of these objects with upcoming surveys coming online next year,” Gregory Laughlin, an author of the study, said in a statement.
  • It's also possible there could be hundreds of smaller interstellar objects that pass through the solar system each year, according to the study.

Yes, but: This study is based on limited data, outside experts told Axios, and it will take new tools coming online in the coming years to truly characterize how many of these interstellar objects pass through the solar system annually.

  • "With LSST [Large Synoptic Survey Telescope] up and running in a few years (hopefully) we will be able to test whether this theory is right, and I look forward to that," Ye Quanzhi, an astronomer at the University of Maryland, told Axios via email.

Go deeper: NASA emails reveal agency's surprise at asteroid's near-miss of Earth

Go deeper

Dozens of Confederate symbols removed in wake of George Floyd's death

A statue of Confederate States President Jefferson Davis lies on the street after protesters pulled it down in Richmond, Virginia, in June. Photo: Parker Michels-Boyce/AFP via Getty Images

59 Confederate symbols have been removed, relocated or renamed since anti-racism protests began over George Floyd's death, a new Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) report finds.

Why it matters: That's a marked increase on previous years, per the report, which points out just 16 Confederate monuments were affected in 2019.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10:30 p.m. ET: 20,532,835 — Total deaths: 747,845— Total recoveries: 12,743,275Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10:30 p.m. ET: 5,193,266 — Total deaths: 165,934 — Total recoveries: 1,714,960 — Total tests: 63,252,257Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi says Mnuchin told her White House is "not budging" on stimulus position.
  4. Business: U.S. already feeling effects of ending unemployment benefits.
  5. Public health: America's two-sided COVID-19 response America is flying blind on its coronavirus response.
  6. Education: New Jersey governor allows schools to reopenGallup: America's confidence in public school system jumps to highest level since 2004.
Updated 2 hours ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

France reported more than 2,500 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours — the largest single-day number since May. French officials said the situation was "clearly worsening," per France 24.

By the numbers: Over 745,600 people have died of the novel coronavirus globally and over 20.4 million have tested positive, per Johns Hopkins. Almost 12.7 million have recovered from the virus.