The first interstellar asteroid ever seen is blowing away astronomers who observed it using the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii. The asteroid has been named "Oumuamua" and was visible for only a brief window around a month ago and now astronomers are announcing what they learned about the mysterious traveler.
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The asteroid named Oumuamua is shaped like a cigar and spinning on its axis as it traveled into our solar system. The closest it traveled to earth was five days before it's discovery on October 14. A month prior, it flew through the orbit of Mercury before skirting past the sun on September 9. The initial discovery suggested it was not orbiting the sun, making it the first interstellar object larger than a grain of dust ever detected and it was already on its way out of the solar system.
The asteroid's name, Oumuamua, means "scout or "messenger" in Hawaiian and was observed by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope which sits atop the Hawaiian Volcano Haleakala. Olivier Hainaut of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) issued a statement through a press release saying, "We had to act quickly. Oumuamua had already passed its closest point to the sun and was heading back into interstellar space."
Once Oumuamua was discovered, astronomers began searching for any glimpses of the object. Two images were found in pre-discovery data from the Catalina Sky Survey on October 14 and 17. A study published by Nature focused on the characteristics of humanity's first known visitor from beyond the solar system. "The orbit calculations revealed beyond any doubt that this body did not originate from inside the solar system, like all other asteroids or comets ever observed, but instead had come from interstellar space."
The study also revealed the object had been traveling for millions of years before passing through our solar system. Karen Meech of the Institute for Astronomy said, "This unusually large variation in brightness means that the object is highly elongated: about ten times as long as it is wide, with a complex, convoluted shape." No other asteroid or comet in our solar system has ever been observed with the same shape.
Meech continued, "We also found that it has a dark red color, similar to objects in the outer solar system, and confirmed that it is completely inert, without the faintest hint of dust around it." Astronomers used calculations to speculate where Oumuamua originated from and determined it had come from the direction of the star Vega in the constellation Lyra.
<img src="https://media.8ch.net/file_store/6d2612d437b470533f20c69d0d4d3b7adbf678c318c9ad1df4ee660c1659bb72.jpg" style="max-height:640px;max-width:360px;">
<span style="margin-top:15px;rgba(42,51,6,0.7);font-size:12px;">Credit: ESO/ Karen Meech</span>
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