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Still Waters

'Permanent' interstellar visitor found

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Still Waters

An asteroid in Jupiter's orbit may have come from outside our Solar System, according to a new study.

Unlike 'Oumuamua, the interstellar object which briefly visited the Solar System earlier this year, 2015 BZ509 (affectionately known as BZ) seems to have been here for 4.5 billion years.

This makes it the first known interstellar asteroid to have taken up residence orbiting the Sun.

It is not yet known where the object came from.

"That's what we need to figure out next," laughs Dr Fathi Namouni from the Universite Cote d'Azur, one of the study's authors.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-44173403

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Waspie_Dwarf
Posted (edited)

2015 BZ509 could turn out to be one of the most important objects ever discovered in the solar system.

Unlike 'Oumuamua it will be possible to send spacecraft to inspect this asteroid. If it does turn out to be of interstellar origin a sample return mission could bring back the first material to have been formed around a star other than our own. This will give scientists an insight into how typical the processes that created our solar system really are.

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf
typo.
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bmk1245
11 minutes ago, Waspie_Dwarf said:

2015 BZ509 could turn out to be one of the most important objects ever discovered in the solar system.

Unlike 'Oumuamua it will be possible to send spacecraft to inspect this asteroid. If it does turn out to be of interstellar origin a sample return mission could bring back the first material to have been formed around a star other than our own. Thbis will give scientists an insight into how typical the processes that created our solar system really are.

That would be discovery of the century.

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Twin

Couldn't it be possible this is debris from the violence which occurred during the creation of the native planets?

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danydandan
10 minutes ago, Twin said:

Couldn't it be possible this is debris from the violence which occurred during the creation of the native planets?

I think it's retrograde orbit, is suggestive. But the headline reads, MAY have come from outside our Solar System, according to a new study.

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Waspie_Dwarf
24 minutes ago, Twin said:

Couldn't it be possible this is debris from the violence which occurred during the creation of the native planets?

That applies to the vast majority of the objects in the asteroid belt. Most asteroids are either left over debris that never began to form into a planets or the remains of failed protoplanets. Collisions and the huge gravitational influence of Jupiter prevented these asteroids from forming a planet.

As danydandan correctly points out the retrograde orbit is suggestive. If this was simply debris from the creation of the solar system it should be orbiting prograde like most of the rest of the objects in the asteroid belt.

Multiple encounters with other objects over billions of years could, I suppose, modify an orbit so that it is retrograde, but this seems fairly unlikely. The other option is that the object was captured from elsewhere.

The people that have come to this conclusion are experts on orbits and have probably run simulations on supercomputers (if they haven't they soon will).

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Twin

In any case, it would be great to visit and examine. I thought our comet visits were spectacular.

I know these missions are meticulous and expensive, but I greatly enjoy them.

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bison
Posted (edited)

The article, linked below, gives some interesting details about 2015 BZ 509, including how it maintains its orbit over a long period of time.

There has been a good deal of scientific skepticism about the interstellar origin of the object. It seems that we know of about 95 small objects in our solar system with retrograde orbits. These may have had their orbital directions reversed by gravitational interactions with other solar system bodies. No model of just how 'Bee-Zed' would have been captured into a co-orbit with Jupiter, if it came in from interstellar space, has been produced.

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/05/interstellar-asteroid-jupiter-bz509-astronomy-space-science/ 

Edited by bison
improved paragraph structure
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Tom the Photon

If you Google 2015BZ509 most of the articles are virtually identical, lazily copied from one another.  So we should read the others: Bison’s National Geographic/ link above, also

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/astronomers-spot-potential-interstellar-asteroid-orbiting-backward-around-the-sun/ or 

http://www.astro.uwo.ca/~wiegert/2015BZ509/ (the animations are very helpful). 

These show a more level, considered approach to BZ.  There are two unsubstantiated claims that don’t stand up to rigorous scrutiny. 

First: the statement that this object has been around for 4500 million years.  After BZ’s discovery in 2014, astronomers Fathi Namouni and Helena Morais used supercomputer simulations to see how long BZ’s odd orbit might have been stable for.  Their conclusion is that if its orbit was even slightly different it would not survive for more than a few million years, but its present path may have been stable for over 4500 million years. 

However it is incorrect to conclude immediately that it has been orbiting all this time.  It could have arrived at any time since.  At present there is no evidence that it arrived while the solar system was forming.

Furthermore their model by necessity is incomplete and makes approximations.  We have no way of knowing how many orbiting objects have disappeared from the solar system without trace, or the effect these may have had on each other.  Oumuamua’s brief visit last year showed us that large objects can arrive at any time, from any direction, and potentially interfere with objects in stable orbits.  65 million years ago the Earth was hit by an asteroid that hadn’t hit us in the previous four billion years: what accident occurred to send it our way?

It is therefore unscientific to state, as fact, that this object has been following its current orbit for 4500 million years.

The second sweeping claim is that it is interstellar in origin.  As with the previous statement this is not impossible, but there are other plausible explanations.  There are millions of larger asteroids in stable orbits which do occasionally interact and travel off with irregular velocities.  BZ might have been one of these – we don’t know.  Comets fall from the Oort Cloud from any direction (Halley’s comet, for example, is retrograde).  BZ might have been one of these – we don’t know.

We don't know what BZ is made of: it might be rock, it might be ice.  We don't know its chemical composition, its age, its origin.  We know its size and orbit.  Everything else is speculation.  Informed, intelligent speculation, yes, but - as with talk of Planet 9 - far from scientific fact.

In summary – it is very premature to claim, as in the OP, “This makes it the first known interstellar asteroid to have taken up residence orbiting the Sun.

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