Monday, October 30, 2017

First Interstellar Object Spotted in Our Solar System

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
 For the first time ever, a visitor from interstellar space has been spotted in our solar system. The object, labelled as A/2017 U1, was detected last week by researchers using the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii.
 The researchers reached this preliminary conclusion based on A/2017 U1's hyperbolic orbit. The path of this object is taking the body out of the solar system. Although other hyperbolic objects have been spotted before, these were nudged onto their escape trajectories by gravitational interactions with planets. Based on current data, A/2017 U1 has had no such close encounters.
 "We have been waiting for this day for decades," Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. "It's long been theorized that such objects exist — asteroids or comets moving around between the stars and occasionally passing through our solar system — but this is the first such detection."
 It is currently unclear what exactly this thing is. When A/2017 U1 was initially spotted, it was thought to be a comet. However further observations have revealed no evidence of a coma - the fuzzy cloud of gas and dust surrounding a comet's core - so the object's name has been amended to its current asteroidal designation (A/2017)
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