Friday, 15 December, 2017

New observations of first-known interstellar asteroid reveals spaceship-like rock

ESO: First Observed Interstellar Asteroid Is Incredibly Long, Has Red Color Interstellar object confirmed to be from another solar system
Garry Little | 22 November, 2017, 00:42

'Oumuamua's story begins on 19 October 2017 when the Hawaiian Pan-STARRS1 telescope system spotted it. Scientists named it A/2017 U1, but immediately realised that they were looking at something odd, since its orbit's shape was extremely hyperbolic.

We're getting our initial look at the first observed object coming from outside our solar system, according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature.

"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", said Karen Meech from the Institute for Astronomy in Hawaii. Spectroscopic measurements show that the object's surface is consistent with comets or organic-rich asteroid surfaces found in our own Solar System.

'Oumuamua may well have been wandering through the Milky Way, unattached to any star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with the Solar System, ' Hainaut added.

They acted fast, and multiple telescopes focused on the object for three nights to determine what it was before it moved out of sight at 85,700 miles per hour.

Mirror quoted Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for Nasa's Science Mission Directorate as saying, "For decades, we've theorised that such interstellar objects are out there, and now - for the first time - we have direct evidence they exist". Let's be grandiose about it - after all, practically every article following discovery of gravitational waves declared that this was "opening a new window on the universe".

Jewitt and his worldwide team observed the object for five nights in late October using the Nordic Optical Telescope in the Canary Islands and the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona. They orbit the sun just as we and our planetary neighbors do, though in more erratic shapes and longer times. Once discovered, astronomers can turn to more powerful telescopes to learn more.

Astronomers say the object could carry secrets on how other solar systems have formed.

The International Astronomical Union created a new designation of "I" - or interstellar - especially for the discovery. 'Oumuamua shows that the same could be possible in other solar systems.

"The presence of 'Oumuamua suggests that previous estimates of the density of interstellar objects were pessimistically low", the paper explains.

Authorities said such objects are extremely hard to spot; between one and 10 of these visitors drop by our solar system annually. But one that comes from outside our solar system definitely is.

The asteroid is now heading towards Jupiter and is predicted to leave our solar system in 2019, continuing its long journey towards the Pegasus constellation.

Preliminary orbital calculations suggested that the object had come from the approximate direction of the bright star Vega, in the northern constellation of Lyra.

"We are continuing to observe this unique object", Hainaut said in the ESO statement. So we should probably expect many more of these interstellar visitors to get spotted now we are looking for them.

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