Has the mystery object come from elsewhere in the galaxy ? Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
For the first time ever, astronomers have spotted what is thought to be a visitor from a distant star system.
Codenamed 'A/2017 U1', the object, which was recently spotted hurtling past the Sun, could be the first confirmed example of a comet or asteroid originating from outside of our solar system.
Observations have so far suggested that the object is in a strong hyperbolic orbit, which means that it is travelling fast enough to escape the gravitational pull of the Sun.
"When we run the orbit for this [object] back in time, it stays hyperbolic all the way out - there are no close approaches to any of the giant planets that could have given this thing a kick," said Dr Gareth Williams, associate director of the Minor Planet Center.
"If we follow the orbit out into the future, it stays hyperbolic, so it is coming from interstellar space and it is going to interstellar space. If further observations confirm the unusual nature of this orbit, this object may be the first clear case of an interstellar comet."
Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has also been keeping a keen eye on the object's progress.
"We have been waiting for this day for decades," he said.
"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."
"So far, everything indicates this is likely an interstellar object, but more data would help to confirm it."
Source: The Guardian | Comments (82)
Similar stories based on this topic: