Astronomers have confirmed that our solar system has had an interstellar visitor.
A mysterious asteroid that was detected speeding past the sun in October has been confirmed to be from outside our solar system, The Guardian reports. This makes it the first of its kind to be detected by scientists.
The asteroid first caught the attention of astronomers when it managed to escape the sun’s orbit, which was only possible due to how fast it was traveling. Along with the sheer speed of the massive rock, it’s trajectory was also hyperbolic, or a different angle to the plane that most objects orbiting the sun. After an analysis performed by astronomers, it was determined that the asteroid’s speed would be impossible to reach in our solar system, confirming that it was from a different solar system.
Their analysis also determined that the asteroid, which they named ‘’Oumuamua’ after a Hawaiian term meaning messenger or scout, is extremely dark, absorbing 96% of the light that hits its surface. It is also believed to have a red coloring, which suggests that it contains hydrocarbons, which are considered to be the building blocks of life. Hydrocarbons are the molecules that scientists believe made life on Earth possible. Does this mean that the interstellar rock came from a solar system supporting life?
The analysis, which was conducted by teams in Hawaii and Los Angeles who studied the object independently, also suggests that there could be 10,000 similar interstellar objects between the sun and Neptune.