Last month, a Hawaiian telescope Pan-STARRS 1 found a strange object blazing through our solar system.
Initially, the scientists thought the fast-moving dim light was a comet or an asteroid from our solar system. But later they admitted it was from another star because of their analysis showing its orbit is almost impossible to achieve from within our solar system. Named 1I/2017 U1(’Oumuamua), scientists confirmed it is the first known interstellar object in our solar system.
“Because the object is moving fast, and the light we get from it is reflected sunlight, the faster it moves away from both the sun and the Earth, the faster it fades in brightness,” said Karen Meech, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy and the lead author of the paper.
In order to study it, scientists observed ‘Oumuamua for two weeks before it disappeared from the view of optical telescopes. As of November 20, ‘Oumuamua is travelling about 85,700 miles per hour relative to the Sun.
“This unusually big variation in brightness means that the object is highly elongated: about ten times as long as it is wide, with a complex, convoluted shape,” added Meech. “We also found that it had a reddish color, similar to objects in the outer solar system, and confirmed that it is completely inert, without the faintest hint of dust around it.”
The mysterious object was assigned the temporary designation A/2017 U1 by the Minor Planet Center, the first object of its type ever discovered. Eventually, the University of Hawaii team gave it a permanent name of Hawaiian origin, ‘Oumuamua, “a messenger from afar arriving first.”
Scientists say the object may well have been wandering through our Milky Way galaxy, unattached to any star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with our own solar system. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, remarked:
“For decades we’ve theorized that such interstellar objects are out there, and now – for the first time – we have direct evidence they exist. This history-making discovery is opening a new window to study formation of solar systems beyond our own.”