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Solar System’s First Interstellar Visitor Dazzles Scientists

Bringing some of the mysteries of the universe a little closer to home.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:08 pm

Astronomers recently scrambled to observe an intriguing asteroid that zipped through the solar system on a steep trajectory from interstellar space—the first confirmed object from another star.

Now, new data reveal the interstellar interloper to be a rocky, cigar-shaped object with a somewhat reddish hue. The asteroid, named ‘Oumuamua by its discoverers, is up to one-quarter mile (400 meters) long and highly-elongated—perhaps 10 times as long as it is wide. That aspect ratio is greater than that of any asteroid or comet observed in our solar system to date. 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.

The observations and analyses were funded in part by NASA and appear in the Nov. 20 issue of the journal Nature. They suggest this unusual object had been wandering through the Milky Way, unattached to any star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:10 pm

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Credits: European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser

Artist’s concept of interstellar asteroid 1I/2017 U1 (‘Oumuamua) as it passed through the solar system after its discovery in October 2017. The aspect ratio of up to 10:1 is unlike that of any object seen in our own solar system.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:14 pm



The object – for now designated A/2017 U1 – is less than a quarter-mile in diameter. It was discovered Oct. 19 by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS 1 telescope during its nightly search for Near-Earth Objects for NASA. Courtesy NASA.

 
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