The folks tracking asteroids and comets that pbad by Earth think a fast-moving object that sped its way between our planet and the sun came from outside our solar system.
The object, designated A/2017 U1, was about ¼ mile in diameter, and initially pbaded through the planetary plane between Mercury and the sun then swung down below the plane and headed out into space.
The speed of the object, though is what made people think this is the first tracked object to come from interstellar space, moving fast enough so it wouldn’t be captured by the sun’s gravitational pull.
It approached the sun at 15.8 miles per second, which is faster than the 11 miles per second of satellite Voyager 1, now currently in interstellar space and among the fastest man-made objects in space.
The swing past the sun sent A/2017 U1 back on its ways away, but now at 27 miles per second. That’s close to 100,000 mph.
Juno, hit 25 miles per second, or 165,000 mph, on its journey to Jupiter.
“This is the most extreme orbit I have ever seen,” said Davide Farnocchia, a scientist at NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “It is going extremely fast and on such a trajectory that we can say with confidence that this object is on its way out of the solar system and not coming back.”
The closest it came to Earth was on its way out on Oct. 14 under the planetary plane at about 15 million miles distance, or 60 times the distance of the moon.
The object was discovered Oct. 19 by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakala, Hawaii, noted by Rob Weryk, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy.
“Its motion could not be explained using either a normal solar system asteroid or comet orbit,” Weryk said. “This object came from outside our solar system.”
A/2017 U1 came from the direction of the constellation Lyra and is now headed toward the constellation Pegasus.
“We have long suspected that these objects should exist, because during the process of planet formation a lot of material should be ejected from planetary systems. What’s most surprising is that we’ve never seen interstellar objects pbad through before,” said Karen Meech, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy.
While A/2017 U1 doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, because this is potentially a first, an object from outside the solar system, the naming for it will need to be established by the International Astronomical Union.
“We have been waiting for this day for decades,” said Paul Chodas with the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies. “It’s long been theorized that such objects exist — asteroids or comets moving around between the stars and occasionally pbading through our solar system — but this is the first such detection. So far, everything indicates this is likely an interstellar object, but more data would help to confirm it.”
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