Cigar-shaped asteroid came from another solar system

Discovery may give clues as to how other systems formed

November 21, 2017 09:07 pm | Updated 09:07 pm IST - Washington

This handout photo released by the European Southern Observatory on November 20, 2017 shows an artist's impression of the first interstellar asteroid: Oumuamua. 
This unique object was discovered on 19 October 2017 by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii. Subsequent observations from ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that it was travelling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. `Oumuamua seems to be a dark red highly-elongated metallic or rocky object, about 400 metres long, and is unlike anything normally found in the Solar System. / AFP PHOTO / European Southern Observatory / M. Kornmesser / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / EUROPEAN SOUTHERN OBSERVATORY / M. Kornmesser" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

This handout photo released by the European Southern Observatory on November 20, 2017 shows an artist's impression of the first interstellar asteroid: Oumuamua. This unique object was discovered on 19 October 2017 by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii. Subsequent observations from ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that it was travelling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. `Oumuamua seems to be a dark red highly-elongated metallic or rocky object, about 400 metres long, and is unlike anything normally found in the Solar System. / AFP PHOTO / European Southern Observatory / M. Kornmesser / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / EUROPEAN SOUTHERN OBSERVATORY / M. Kornmesser" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

A rocky cigar-shaped object detected in space last month came from another solar system, astronomers said on Monday as they confirmed an unprecedented observation.

The discovery may provide clues as to how other solar systems formed, said the researchers, who published their study in the British journal Nature .

The asteroid, named Oumuamua by its discoverers, is 400 meters long and highly elongated, perhaps 10 times as long as it is wide.

That odd shape is unprecedented among the some 7,50,000 asteroids and comets observed in our solar system where they formed, said the researchers.

Once a year

They concluded that the cigar-shaped thing is from another solar system due to data on its orbit. Asteroids like Oumuamua enter our solar system about once a year. But they are hard to trace and had not been detected until now, thanks to stronger telescopes.

The detection suggests this object had been wandering through our galaxy, the Milky Way, unattached to any star system for hundreds of millions of years before it ran into ours.

“For decades we’ve theorized that such interstellar objects are out there, and now — for the first time — we have direct evidence they exist,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

“This history-making discovery is opening a new window to study formation of solar systems beyond our own,” he added.

The asteroid was detected by a telescope in Hawaii. Oumuamua means messenger in Hawaiian.

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