Interstellar object confirmed to be from another solar system

22 November, 2017, 00:42 | Author: Becky Perry
  • This very deep combined image shows the interstellar asteroid ‘Oumuamua at the center of the

Scientists from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have released new details about the first ever 'alien asteroid" spotted in our solar system, which it said is "like nothing seen before'. If they're more like asteroids, that implied to the team that there are way more of these interstellar rocks in the Solar System than originally thought, according to the paper.

It's possible 'Oumuamua has been wandering through the Milky Way for millions of years.

Unlike Solar System comets or asteroids, Oumuamua's orbit is not "bound to the Sun", Kotulla explained.

"Looking at the asteroid light curve database, there are five objects (out of 20,000) that have light curves that would suggest a shape up to an axis ratio of about 7-8 to 1", Dr Meech told the BBC. That makes it unlike any other asteroids seen in our Solar System, none of which are so elongated. This complex and convoluted shape means the object varies incredibly in brightness.

Astronomer Jayadev Rajagopal said in an email that it was exciting to point the Arizona telescope at such a tiny object "which, for all we know, has been traveling through the vast emptiness of space for millions of years".

So what is it? The correct forms for referring to this object are now: 1I, 1I/2017 U1, 1I/'Oumuamua and 1I/2017 U1 ('Oumuamua).

Its discoverers named the massive object "Oumuamua", which translates from Hawaiian to "a messenger from afar arriving first".

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"For decades we have theorised that such type of interstellar objects is out there, and now -we have direct evidence that they exist", stated by Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA Science Mission in Washington.

"This history-making discovery is opening a new window to study formation of solar systems beyond our own".

But where did it come from?

The shape of the object, believed to be the first asteroid or comet to be observed by humans, is 10 times as long as it width and has never been seen before. So it would stand to reason that other planetary systems are sending the same remnants our way. Scientists say our solar system could contain as many as 10,000 interstellar visitors, which is mind-blowing. Early estimates suggest that it is coming roughly from the direction of bright star Vega, in the northern constellation of Lyra, an ESO report said.

But Vega was not even close to its present position 300,000 years ago, when its journey would have started. Asteroids like Oumuamua enter our solar system about once a year.

Because of its speed, if this type of interstellar object were to crash into Earth, it would have a much greater impact and create more energy than an object from our solar system. NASA said two if its space telescopes (Hubble and Spitzer) are tracking the object. The discovery took place on October 19 from the Pan-STARRS 1 Observatory, located on the island of the Pacific Ocean.

Using observations from the Very Large Telescope in Chile, Karen Meech, from the Institute for Astronomy in Honolulu, Hawaii, and colleagues determined that the object was about 400m long, rapidly rotating and subject to dramatic changes in brightness.

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