Astronomers may have found so­lar sys­tem’s first ob­served in­ter­stel­lar ob­ject

Iran Daily - - Science & Technology -

Astronomers are track­ing what they be­lieve may be the first ob­served in­ter­stel­lar as­ter­oid or comet to travel through Earth’s so­lar sys­tem, NASA said.

The space agency said the ob­ject is less than a quar­ter mile in di­am­e­ter and is trav­el­ing ‘re­mark­ably fast’. They’re not sure what ex­actly it is, UPI re­ported.

Paul Cho­das, man­ager of NASA’S Cen­ter for Near-earth Ob­ject Stud­ies, said, “The agency has been wait­ing for this day for decades.

“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.”

The Univer­sity of Hawaii’s PAN-STARRS 1 tele­scope dis­cov­ered the ob­ject, named A/2017 U1, on Oct. 19. Post-doc­toral re­searcher Rob Weryk first spot­ted the ob­ject.

He said, “Its mo­tion could not be ex­plained us­ing ei­ther a nor­mal so­lar sys­tem as­ter­oid or comet or­bit.”

Weryk said he also re­viewed im­ages taken at the Euro­pean Space Agency’s tele­scope in the Ca­nary Is­lands.

He de­ter­mined, “This ob­ject came from out­side our so­lar sys­tem.”

NASA sci­en­tist Da­vide Farnoc­chia said the ob­ject has the most ex­treme or­bit he’s ever seen.

“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.”

NASA’S Cen­ter for Near-earth Ob­ject Stud­ies de­ter­mined the ob­ject came from the di­rec­tion of the Lyra con­stel­la­tion and is trav­el­ing about 15.8 miles per sec­ond.

A/2017 U1 ap­proached the so­lar sys­tem from above the eclip­tic — the plane on which the plan­ets and most as­ter­oids or­bit the Sun.

Pulled in by the Sun’s grav­ity, the ob­ject then made a ‘hair­pin’ turn un­der­neath the eclip­tic, pass­ing about 15 mil­lion miles un­der Earth.

It be­gan trav­el­ing back above the plane and is mak­ing its way to­ward the Pe­ga­sus con­stel­la­tion.

Karen Meech, an as­tronomer at the In­sti­tute for Astron­omy, said, “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 pass through be­fore.”

Since it’s po­ten­tially the first ob­ject of its kind, the In­ter­na­tional Astro­nom­i­cal Union must first de­ter­mine a nam­ing con­ven­tion be­fore A/2017 U1 can get a per­ma­nent name. Re­searchers at the Na­tional Graphene In­sti­tute (NGI) at The Univer­sity of Manch­ester suc­ceeded in fab­ri­cat­ing tiny slits in a new mem­brane that are just sev­eral angstroms (0.1nm) in size.

This has al­lowed the study of how var­i­ous ions pass through th­ese tiny holes, ac­cord­ing to phys.org.

The slits are made from graphene, hexag­o­nal boron ni­tride (HBN) and molyb­de­num disul­phide (MOS2) and, sur­pris­ingly, al­low ions with di­am­e­ters larger than the size of the slit to per­me­ate through.

The size-ex­clu­sion stud­ies al­low for a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how sim­i­lar scale bi­o­log­i­cal fil­ters such as aqua­por­ins work and so will help in the de­vel­op­ment of high-flux fil­ters for water de­sali­na­tion and re­lated tech­nolo­gies.

For sci­en­tists in­ter­ested in the be­hav­ior of flu­ids and their fil­tra­tion, it has been an ul­ti­mate but seem­ingly dis­tant goal to con­trol­lably fab­ri­cate cap­il­lar­ies with di­men­sions ap­proach­ing the size of small ions and in­di­vid­ual water mol­e­cules.

Re­searchers have been try­ing to mimic nat­u­rally-oc­cur­ring ion trans­port sys­tems, but this has proved to be no easy task.

Chan­nels fab­ri­cated with stan­dard tech­niques and con­ven­tional ma­te­ri­als have un­for­tu­nately been

UPI

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