What can be described as inexplicable in the world of science, a strange space rock that possibly originated from beyond our solar system was seen for the first time. Astronomers could spot the mysterious object as it has passed close enough to Earth.
The interstellar object has created great eagerness among scientists who have been working tirelessly to gather information before they lose sight of the object. Astronomers say that since the object is on a hyperbolic trajectory, it must be from outside the solar system.
All the asteroids and comets that have been identified till date have been clearly originated from our solar system as they are formed from matter that are trapped around our Sun. However in this case even the initial studies confirmed that the unique object must be from a comet from a far flung star as its velocity and trajectory did not seem to be local.
How do asteroids become an interstellar object?
According to the Senior Lecturer and astrophysicist at Rochester Institute of Technology Brian Koberlein , some asteroids and comets wander through the stars and occasionally visit a star and become interstellar travellers.
Later when some more additional data was collected it revealed that the object doesn’t have any characteristics of a comet. Therefore scientists from the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center (MPC) reconsidered the object as an asteroid and named it A/2017 U1.
It is traveling at an enormous speed of 26 kilometres (16.2 miles) per second which is so fast that it cannot be burned up by the Sun or caught in its orbit. Scientist say that its trajectory confirms that it is now on its way out of our solar system and would not come back.
The unique body came nearest to the Sun on 9 September before taking a sharp turn and passing under the Earth’s orbit on 14 October at a distance of about 24 million kilometres or about 60 times the distance to the Moon.
Identifying the first object:
The mysterious object was discovered by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakala, Hawaii. Rob Weryk from the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Astronomy was the first to identify the moving object. After analyzing his findings with images taken at the European Space Agency’s telescope on Tenerife in the Canary Islands, he concluded the object came from somewhere else in our galaxy.
All the information related to the interstellar object would be of great importance to the astronomers and scientists as it would possibly reveal its composition and origin. Actually Scientists have always believed in the theory of the existence of such interstellar objects as huge amounts of material is presumed to be ejected when planets are formed. Though this is the first time anything such has been seen.
According to Bonnie Meink , Deputy Project Scientist of the James Webb Space Telescope this discovery would give us insights into a lot of things like probing the dynamics and history of formation of the solar system and also if there are other similar solar systems like ours.
Article by Abirami.