A Queen’s College Belfast scientist is main a world group in finding out a brand new customer to our photo voltaic system – the primary identified comet or asteroid to go to us from one other star.
The fast-moving object, now named A/2017 U1, was initially noticed on 18 October in Hawaii by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii. Professor Alan Fitzsimmons from the College of Arithmetic and Physics at Queen’s, along with colleagues within the UK, USA and Chile have been monitoring it utilizing highly effective telescopes the world over.
Commenting on the venture, Professor Fitzsimmons mentioned: “By Wednesday this week it turned nearly sure this object was alien to our photo voltaic system. We instantly began finding out it that night time with the William Herschel Telescope within the Canary Islands, then on Thursday night time with the Very Mbadive Telescope in Chile.”
The preliminary information implies it’s a small rocky or icy object that will have been drifting by way of our galaxy for thousands and thousands and even billions of years, earlier than coming into our photo voltaic system by likelihood. The thing flew into the photo voltaic system from above, was near the Solar final month, and is now already on its approach again out to the celebrities.
Astronomers consider it was most likely thrown out of one other star system throughout a interval of planet formation. The identical course of is badumed to have unfolded four.5 billion years in the past round our personal star, when Jupiter and Saturn shaped. Regardless of suspecting such objects existed and searching for them over previous many years, scientists have by no means seen such an interstellar customer till now.
Throughout fast investigations, Professor Fitzsimmons’ group has now captured clear pictures of the weird object, and obtained information on its potential chemical make-up.
Meabh Hyland, a PhD scholar from the Astrophysics Analysis Centre at Queen’s College Belfast, mentioned: “It is fantastic and thrilling to see this object pbading by way of our planetary system.”
Commenting on the unbelievable findings, Professor Fitzsimmons added: “It sends a shiver down the backbone to take a look at this object and suppose it has come from one other star.”
Extra info is required to pin down the precise particulars of the place the customer got here from and what its properties are, however fortunately the thing must be seen in highly effective telescopes for just a few extra weeks, permitting scientists to proceed their investigations.
The group finding out the thing embrace Professor Alan Fitzsimmons and Ms Meabh Hyland (Queen’s College Belfast), Dr Colin Snodgrbad (Open College), Dr Robert Jedicke (College of Hawaii) and Dr Bin Yang (European Southern Observatory).
Small asteroid or comet ‘visits’ from past the photo voltaic system