Arriving from deep space, an interstellar object named Oumuamua entered our solar system.
In October, American astronomers found the first interstellar object in our solar system. Amid its daily ritual of searching for objects near Earth, the Pan-STARR1 telescope in Hawaii spotted the object moving “rapidly” through the sky. Rob Weryk, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, and his team immediately began studying the object they named Oumuamua, a Hawaiian term for a “messenger from afar arriving first.”
After the discovery of the foreign object, astronomers around the world began asking questions about where it came from, how it got here and what it has to tell us.
As astronomers gathered more information about Oumuamua, they found that the asteroid originated from another star and has been moving through the universe for millions to billions of years. The piece of debris is estimated to be the length of a football field, but it cannot be measured precisely due to its quick and constant rotation as it hurls itself throughout the universe.
Astronomers are certain of the asteroid’s color, but the typical onlooker may not be. It is deemed to be red due to its ability to reflect more red light than blue. To the naked eye, it appears as a dark cigar-shaped asteroid.
The most challenging aspect of studying Oumuamua has been its unexpected arrival, leaving astronomers with little time to examine it. Thankfully, as the asteroid passed the sun, the star’s gravitational pull changed the straight-line path of Oumuamua and sent it on a new path through the solar system. This path has prolonged Oumuamua’s time in the solar system, giving astronomers more time to answer any lingering questions.
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