Meet 'Oumuamua', the first observed interstellar visitor to our solar system

  • Meet 'Oumuamua', the first observed interstellar visitor to our solar system

Meet 'Oumuamua', the first observed interstellar visitor to our solar system

Using robotic telescopes such as Pan-STARRS, the one that detected 'Oumuamua, to look for asteroids is a priority for astronomers as they concentrate on discovering potential hazardous objects that could impact Earth. This is the first time scientists have discovered an asteroid from outside the solar system, and the finding has been published in 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", Meech said.

They concluded that the cigar-shaped thing is from another solar system due to data on its orbit. In addition to the asteroid's unusual shape, 'Oumuamua has been estimated to have been traveling hundreds of millions of years before its chance, and probably only, encounter with our solar system. It's also pink, likely from years of getting bombarded with cosmic radiation as it wanders, untethered to a group of planets gravitationally chained to a star, throughout the universe.

"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. 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". It was spotted by their aptly named Very Large Telescope. Oumuamua means messenger in Hawaiian. After an analysis performed by astronomers, it was determined that the asteroid's speed would be impossible to reach in our solar system, confirming that it was from a different solar system. While that might be true in terms of the object's composition, calculations of its orbit revealed that it could not have come from our own solar system.

"We also found that it had a reddish colour, similar to objects in the outer solar system, and confirmed that it is completely inert, without the faintest hint of dust around it", Meech added.

But in the next few years, we may be able to spot more interstellar objects like 'Oumuamua. But one that comes from outside our solar system definitely is. NASA said two if its space telescopes (Hubble and Spitzer) are tracking the object.

Astronomers have confirmed an object spotted in space last month is the first known visitor from outside the solar system. The asteroid has been moving at an impressive speed of 59,000 miles an hour, per the release, and came from the same direction as Vega, a bright star once featured in the famous sci-fi film Contact.

'We are continuing to observe this unique object and we hope to more accurately pin down where it came from and where it is going next on its tour of the galaxy, ' he said. This very brief, nearly missed blush of the first recorded interstellar visitor might give scientists more motivation to be on the lookout for more curious objects, especially now that we have equipment powerful enough to detect them. The discovery took place on October 19 from the Pan-STARRS 1 Observatory, located on the island of the Pacific Ocean.