BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Astronomers reported spotting, for the first time ever, an object coming from outside our Solar System. Initially believed to be a comet, the latest observations point to its potentially being an asteroid.
The strange space object was first spotted back on October 19 by the International Astronomical Union’s MPC or Minor Planet Center and its Hawaii Telescope. At the time, it was believed to be a comet that had been ‘flung out from a nearby star’. One that almost did not appear to have gotten caught in the gravitational pull of the Sun, as most other such objects from our Solar System do.
This initial designation led to its being called C/2017 UI, however, its name was once again changed only a few days later. Earlier this week, on October 25, new observations captured by the Very Large Telescope revealed that things might be rather different.
The strange interstellar object revealed no comet-like features; instead, it seems to have asteroid ones. As such, its current denomination is A/2017 U1, and it is the first time that a potential comet transitioned to an asteroid.
The Interstellar Object Still Causing Wonder
One thing that the observations revealed and of which scientists are convinced is that this object has a hyperbolic orbit. This means that it has a fast enough speed that it can avoid getting drawn in by the Sun’s pull.
A/2017 U1 is believed to be some 525 feet across and to be traveling at a speed of around 16.2 miles per second. As it passed by 15 million miles away from Earth on October 14, the interstellar object is now racing and almost out of our Solar System.
At least for now, stargazers are unsure of this space object’s origin as they do not know where this came from.
“Now we finally have a sample of something from another solar system, and I think that’s really neat, and so you’d love to see if it looks like stuff in our solar system,” Karen Meech, an astronomer part of the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy was reported as stating.
Image Source: NASA/JPL