Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

US Astronauts Observe First Asteroid from outside Solar System

US Astronauts Observe First Asteroid from outside Solar System

Monday, 30 October, 2017 - 06:15
KOI-314c, the lightest planet to have both size and mass measured. This gaseous ‘Super Earth’ is 60% larger than our planet. (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics/AFP)

US space scientists announced that a small asteroid or comet, which has been spotted racing through our solar system, may have come from elsewhere in the galaxy, possibly marking the first such interstellar visitor observed from Earth.

The mystery object, so far known only as A/2017 U1, was discovered earlier this month by a researcher using a sophisticated telescope system at the University of Hawaii that continually scans the universe for such phenomenon.

The mass, a quarter mile (400 meters) in diameter, quickly stood out for scientists because of its extreme orbit, coming from the direction of the constellation Lyra, almost directly above the ecliptic plane where the planets and other asteroids orbit the sun.

Reuters reported that the mass crossed under that plane just outside Mercury’s orbit on Sept. 2 before being slung by the sun’s massive gravity into a sharp turn under our solar system. The closest the object came to Earth was about 15 million miles away on Oct. 14.

NASA scientists said if the object is formally established as the first of its kind spotted from Earth, rules for naming it would have to be set out by the International Astronomical Union.

Editor Picks