There are many objects floating around in our solar system and astronomers are familiar with most of them. But every now and then ‘something’ passes our planet and scientists simply cannot say what it was.
This just happened when astronomers in Hawaii using the PanSTARRS1 telescope observed a weird object travelling through space at a speed of 16 miles per second.
The unknown object swooped around our Sun, passed Earth at a distance of around 15 million miles and then vanished back into space!
This is a very unusual event and astronomers are not trying to figure out the nature of the space object.
Astronomer Rob Weryk first spotted the object, called A/2017 U1 on October 19 while using the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii, according to NASA.
The object is less than a quarter-mile (400 meters) in diameter and is moving remarkably fast.
NASA first suggested the object is an asteroid or perhaps a comet. It appears to have originated from outside the solar system, coming from somewhere else in our galaxy. If so, it would be the first “interstellar object” to be observed and confirmed by astronomers.
However, the mysterious visitor came so close to our star that it should have likely burned up due to the intense heat, but it didn’t. Subsequent observations suggested that the object might actually be an asteroid and not a comet, which would explain its refusal to disintegrate. ‘
‘It is unlikely we will see the puzzling object again, scientists say.
“This is the most extreme orbit I have ever seen,” said Davide Farnocchia, a scientist at NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the agency’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 nature of the object remains a mystery, but whatever it was scientists are certain that it wasn’t from our solar system.
The object’s trajectory would have made absolutely no sense for something that is orbiting the sun, and the angle at which it approached actually points to it having come from a well known constellation. Unfortunately, the length of time it would have taken to get here muddies the water a bit in terms of predicting its origin.
Regardless of whether it was a comet, asteroid, or something entirely different, it was an incredibly rare event that has sent astronomers rushing to learn more. The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center has issued a notification asking researchers to devote some time to figuring out more about the object.