A mystery is solved. Or is it?
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Centaurs, small solar system bodies that orbit the sun between Jupiter and Neptune, have long been considered one of the more mysterious cosmic bodies in observable space. Astronomers questioned whether or not the bright objects are asteroids or comets, but a new study released online with the Astrophysical Journal supposes that it finally has the answer.
The name “centaur” was given to the objects due to the duality of their comet/asteroid characteristics, not unlike the dual horse/man dichotomy of the mythical beast. That’s where the similarities stop, however, and even the basic duality of cosmic centaurs may no longer hold applicable now that data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has gathered strong evidence that they are in fact comets.