A small, fast-moving object just visited us from outside our solar system, probably from somewhere in our galaxy. An asteroid or a comet? The folks over at NASA weren’t too sure what it was. They figured it was interstellar because it was behaving differently and not like the usual space rock with an orbit around the sun.
First observed on October 19 from Hawaii, it apparently had passed by Earth five days earlier at a distance of 5 million miles (24 million kilometers), which is about 60 times the distance to the moon.
The mysterious object–for now designated A/2017 U1–is less than a quarter-mile (400 meters) in diameter and is moving remarkably fast toward the constellation Pegasus and out of our solar system.
The object was no threat to our planet but it got NASA pretty excited because “it would be the first interstellar object to be observed and confirmed by astronomers.”
It is the first of its kind.
“We have been waiting for this day for decades,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s 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 passing 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.”
NASA says that astronomers have long suspected such objects exist, explaining that 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 pass through before.”
Preoccupied as we are with our earthly troubles, sometimes we forget that there is an entire universe out there. As our technology and zeal for space exploration and study grow, we wonder what else we shall discover.
Maybe, we should make it a point to look up at the stars every now and then to experience the wonder of being part of a majestic creation.
Thoughts? Share them with us below!
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