jh-siesta.com December 11, 2017

A brief visit from a red and extremely elongated interstellar asteroid

24 November 2017, 12:52 | Gretchen Simon

Image An artist's impression of Oumuamua. Pic ESO M

Undated European Southern Observatory handout image of an artistÕs impression showing the first interstellar asteroid `Oumuamua. PRESS ASSOCIATION

This indicates that 'Oumuamua has been in interstellar space a very, very long time.

An artist's impression of the asteroid 'Oumuamua.

These properties suggest that 'Oumuamua is dense, possibly rocky or with high metal content, lacks significant amounts of water or ice, and that its surface is now dark and reddened due to the effects of irradiation from cosmic rays over millions of years. They also confirmed that it is completely inert, without the faintest hint of dust around it.

They also calculate that at any given time, there's an object about 800 feet across born beyond our solar system hanging out within Earth's orbital range. 'Oumuamua may well have been wandering through the Milky Way, unattached to any star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with the Solar System. Expected to launch in 2019, the JWST will "study every phase in the history of our Universe", including the Big Bang, the creation of our Solar System, and its evolution.

The scientists named this mysterious object as 1I/2017 U1 ('Oumuamua) and believe that this interstellar could be one of the thousands of others slinking undetected in our extraterrestrial neighbourhood. The object passed Mars's orbit around November 1 and will pass Jupiter's orbit in May of 2018.

Observations from large ground-based telescopes will continue until the object becomes too faint to be detected, sometime after mid-December.

"This thing is very odd", lead author Karen Meech, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii, which runs the telescope that spotted A/2017 U1, said in a press release.

Although originally classified as a comet, additional observations revealed no signs of cometary activity after it passed closest to the Sun in September 2017.

Preliminary calculations suggest that it may have come from the bright star Vega within the constellation of Lyra.

The other group of astronomers, led by David Jewitt, University of California Los Angeles, estimated how many other interstellar visitors like it there might be in our solar system.

The asteroid is now heading towards Jupiter and is predicted to leave our solar system in 2019, continuing its long journey towards the Pegasus constellation.

Using robotic telescopes such as Pan-STARRS, the one that detected 'Oumuamua, to look for asteroids is a priority for astronomers as they concentrate on discovering potential hazardous objects that could impact Earth.

Our solar system recently had a very unusual visitor. Now given the more poetic Hawaiian name of 'Oumuamua - which loosely means "a messenger that reaches out from the distant past" - the interspace guest was only about 85 times the Earth-Moon distance away when it was first observed. Imminent upgrades to contemporary asteroid survey instruments and improved data processing techniques are likely to produce more interstellar objects in the upcoming years.

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