News Worms
News Worms

A giant cigar-shaped asteroid just hurtled into our solar system

A giant cigar-shaped asteroid just hurtled into our solar system

NASA has confirmed that an asteroid that flew through the solar system last month originated from another star system somewhere else in the Milky Way Galaxy. But based on its orbit, the astronomers realized that the object came from interstellar space.

'Oumuamua was observed to vary dramatically in brightness every 7.3 hours when it spins on its axis.

The scientists also found that the asteroid is dense, possibly rocky or with high metal content, lacks significant amounts of water or ice, and that its surface is now dark and reddened due to the effects of irradiation from cosmic rays over millions of years. Here's another: until 'Oumuamua came along, scientists believed that interstellar objects would behave like comets, not asteroids. While its elongated shape is quite surprising, and unlike asteroids seen in our solar system, it may provide new clues into how other solar systems formed.

Using robotic telescopes, the astronomers are also concentrating on discovering potentially risky objects that could impact Earth.

So what is it?

It wasn't behaving like most other objects in space, prompting speculation and later confirmation that it was the first object ever witnessed from outside the solar system.

But the object has another official name: 'Oumuamua. The object was reclassified as an interstellar asteroid and named 1I/2017 U1 ('Oumuamua) [1].

While the existence of interstellar objects has been theorized for decades, this is the first direct evidence of one. "The history-making discovery is opening a new window to study the formation of solar systems beyond our own".

But where did it come from?

Preliminary observations suggested it was a comet - but follow-up observations showed none of the characteristics associated with comets, and it was subsequently categorised as an asteroid: the first time a comet's categorisation has changed to asteroid.

Trillions of objects from other star systems could have passed our way over the eons, according to Jewitt.

There have been fantastic changes in the way we view the smaller bodies in the solar system over the last five years.

Authorities said such objects are extremely hard to spot; between one and 10 of these visitors drop by our solar system annually. However, it seems that the star was not in that place when the asteroid passed by, about 300 thousand years ago. NASA believes the asteroid most likely was traveling through space for millions of years before finding its way into our solar system. An automated telescope spotted an object that appeared as if it had been dropped on the Solar System from above, an angle that suggests it arrived from elsewhere. NASA said two if its space telescopes (Hubble and Spitzer) are tracking the object. "This serendipitous discovery is bonus science enabled by NASA's efforts to find, track and characterize near-Earth objects that could potentially pose a threat to our planet".

When 'Oumuamua was detected by the Hawaiian Pan-STARRS 1 telescope, it was nearly mistaken for just another asteroid. Astronomers tests say the object is very, very dark and absorbs 96% of light shone on it.


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