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Archive for January, 2018

In late October 2017, astronomers announced the first ever discovery of an asteroid (or comet?) coming into our Solar System from another stellar system. The object was first spotted on 19 October by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS telescope, during its nightly search for near-earth objects. Based on its extreme orbit and its rapid speed, it was soon determined that the object has come into our Solar System from somewhere else, and this makes it the first ever asteroid/comet with an extra-solar origin to have been discovered. Originally given the designation A/2017 U1, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) have now renamed it 1I/2017 U1, with the I standing for “interstellar”. 

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The object, given the designation A/2017 U1, was deemed to be extra-solar in origin from an analysis of its motion.

In addition to its strange trajectory, observations suggest that the object also has quite an unusual shape. It is very elongated, being ten times longer than it is wide. It is thought to be at least 400 metres long but only about 40 metres wide. This was determined by the rapid and dramatic changes in its brightness, which can only be explained by an elongated object tumbling rapidly.

The object has also been given the name Oumuamua (pronounced oh MOO-uh MOO-uh), although this is not its official name (yet).  This means “a messenger from afar arriving first” in Hawaiian. In other respects, it seems to be very much like asteroids found in our own Solar System, and is the confirmation of what astronomers have long suspected, that small objects which formed around other stars can end up wandering through space, not attached to any particular stellar system.

To read more about this fascinating object, follow this link.

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