An Interstellar Object Visited Our Solar System

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The object was spotted for the first time on the night of Oct. 19, when a group of scientists observed the sky via the Pan-STARRS1 telescope from the top of a Hawaiian volcanic mountain. Rob Weryk, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, was the first to spot the interstellar object, thinking it was a typical asteroid that was moving in the sun’s orbit.

“It was only when I went back and found it [in the data from] the night before that it became obvious it was something else,” he said in a press release about the discovery announcement. “I’d never expected to find something like this.”

Weryk and his team got more telescope time to study this mysterious object that was moving rapidly through the sky. They also asked for help from the astronomy community. Their first observations led them to think that the object was a comet. However, according to the data, it didn’t have some characteristics that comets normally have and concluded that it had to be an asteroid, although it wasn’t acting like any other asteroid they had seen before. Additionally, when they measured the object’s movement, they realized that the moving object wasn’t from our solar system and that it had come here from somewhere else, traveling through interstellar space.

They announced the discovery of the interstellar object on Oct. 26, and have called it A/2017 U1. The University of Hawaii team gave it a name of Hawaiian origin, calling it “Oumuamua, a messenger from afar arriving first.” They continued the research and have released more information regarding the asteroid, which was published in a new paper on Monday, in Nature. The newly published paper is also a confirmation that “Oumuamua” is the first known object coming here from interstellar space.

“Oumuamua is a cigar-shaped, 800-meter long asteroid, red in color, with a surface similar to comets and organic-rich asteroids found elsewhere in our solar system, according to the astronomers. Little is known about its composition. But its existence is, for now, exciting enough.”

Researchers and astronomers have believed for a long time that this event could occur. Our solar system used to be very “turbulent” in its adolescence, planets were swirling into their shape, casting away their materials and sending it flying towards the end of the solar system and even beyond it. Some of the jostled material could have made its way to another star. Scientists believe that “Oumuamua” is one of the outcasts that was tossed out from its original solar system. That being said, there is a possibility of pieces of our own solar system traveling through the interstellar space, or going past another star, just like in the case of “Oumuamua,” this interstellar object.

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