Now, for a little bit at least, we've got part of another solar system right at hand.
A small, recently discovered asteroid - or perhaps a comet - appears to have originated from outside the solar system, coming from somewhere else in our galaxy. It was first detected by Rob Weryk, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, and confirmed by the European Space Agency's telescope on Tenerife in the Canary Islands.
Although the new object was identified on October 19 by University of Hawaii postdoctoral researcher Rob Weryk, astronomers can calculate where the object was even before its discovery.
University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (IfA) post-doctoral researcher Rob Weryk first spotted the object while conducting his nightly search for near-Earth Objects using Pan-STARRS 1. The object is moving out of sight fast, and it's not returning.
Weryk immediately realized this was an unusual object.
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Up until now, all asteroids and comets we've seen have originated in our own Solar System. But with the combined data, everything made sense.
Both its extreme hyperbolic eccentricity of 1.19, which is essentially its path through the Solar System, and its very high inclination of 122° compared with Earth's orbit around the Sun, are making astronomers think this is a visitor.
Where's it going? Scientists think the object is heading toward the constellation Pegasus and is on its way out of our solar system. Even before it leaves our sight, the object will be hard to study. However, we have information such as chemical composition, trajectory deviations of the movement and the approximate structure is sufficient to infer a likely version of the falling comet C/U1 2017 in the Solar system.
A/2017 U1 crossed under the ecliptic plane just inside of the Mercury's orbit on September 2. It passed closest to Earth on 14 October, about 24 million kilometres (15 million miles) away. A/2017 U1 has moved out of ecliptic plane and is now moving towards the Constellation Pegasus at a speed of 27 miles (44 Km) per second. Although such objects were suspected to exist, this is the first time that one such object has been directly observed.
"It's always been theorized that such objects exist-asteroids or comets moving between the stars and occasionally passing through our solar system-but this is the first such detection", noted CNEOS Manager Paul Chodas via an agency-issued release.
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The Minor Planet Center (MPC), which makes all observations on small bodies in our solar system and objects passing through, named the newly discovered object as A/2017 U1.
"This kind of discovery demonstrates the great scientific value of continual wide-field surveys of the sky, coupled with intensive follow-up observations, to find things we wouldn't otherwise know are there", MPC Director Matt Homan stated.
Because no interstellar asteroid has ever been seen before, the International Astronomical Union has no rules for naming the new object.
"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.
Astronomers rightfully got excited, since their observations could mark the first detection of a comet or asteroid from interstellar space, or the void between stars.
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