For the first time, a visitor from interstellar space has been spotted in our solar system
The object was detected last week by researchers using the Pan-Starrs 1 telescope in Hawaii.
” We have been waiting for this day for decades,” said Paul Chodas, manager of the Center of Near-Earth Object Studies
“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,” Chodas added. “So far, everything indicates this is likely an interstellar object, but more data would help to confirm it.”
Chodas, as well as other researchers put the base of this conclusion on the object’s hyperbolic orbit, meaning that its path is taking the body out of our solar system. Even though there have been other objects spotted before, they were nudged onto escape trajectories by gravitational interactions with planets, said Matthew Holman, director of the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“All other plausible solutions don’t work out,” Holman told Space.com. “So you’re left with, this thing came from elsewhere.”
Scientists don’t know for sure what the object is. When it was first spotted, it was believed to be a comet. However, further observations revealed that there is no evidence of a coma (the fuzzy cloud of gas and dust).
Even so, Holman strongly suspects that the object is made from more ice than rock. Astronomers have reconstructed the object’s path through the solar system and came to the conclusion that it approached from the direction of the constellation Lyra.