First Interstellar Object Spotted In Our Solar System Dubbed A/2017 U

Posted: Oct 28 2017, 7:31am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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First Interstellar Object Spotted in our Solar System
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Astronomers may have captured first visting object from outside our solar system

Astronomers have detected an unusual space rock hurtling towards our Solar System. The object is behaving in mysterious ways, leading researchers to believe that it may have come from somewhere else in our galaxy. If confirmed, it could be our first visitor from beyond the solar system.

Dubbed A/2017 U, the mysterious interstellar object measures about 1,300 feet wide and is traveling exceptionally fast. However, its true identity is yet to be determined. With the help of powerful telescopes around the world, astronomers are trying to get a close look at the object. Once the data is obtained and analyzed, they may be able to tell more about its class and possibly the composition of the object.

“By Wednesday this week, it became almost certain this object was alien to our solar system. We immediately started studying it that night with the William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands, then on Thursday night with the Very Large Telescope in Chile." Professor Alan Fitzsimmons from Queen’s Belfast said in a statement.

A/2017 U1 was discovered on October 19 by astronomers using the Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope as a part of tracking Near-Earth Objects. Initial data showed it was a small object made up either of rock and ice. But the most unusual thing about the object is its eccentric manner. Such kind of behavior is never observed in space rocks inside our solar system.

“This is the most extreme orbit I have ever seen," said Davide Farnocchia, a scientist at NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA JPL. "It is going extremely fast and on such a trajectory that we can say with confidence that this object is on its way out of the solar system and not coming back."

On October 14, the object safely flew past Earth at a distance of about 15 million miles or about 60 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon. That close encounter provided researchers an opportunity to study the object in an unprecedented detail. According to latest observations, the object appears to have originated from outside the solar system.

“We have long suspected that these objects should exist because during the process of planet formation a lot of material should be ejected from planetary systems,” said Karen Meech, an astronomer at the IfA. “What’s most surprising is that we’ve never seen interstellar objects pass through before.”

More information is needed to determine whether it is an asteroid or perhaps a comet from outside the solar system but fortunately the object should be visible through powerful telescopes for a few more weeks, which will allow scientists to continue their investigations.

"We have been waiting for this day for decades," said CNEOS Manager Paul Chodas. "It's long been theorized that such objects exist - asteroids or comets moving around between the stars and occasionally passing through our solar system – but this is the first such detection, so far, everything indicates this is likely an interstellar object, but more data would help to confirm it.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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