As­ter­oid En­ters the So­lar Sys­tem

For the first time ever, as­tronomers have dis­cov­ered an alien guest – a fast-mov­ing as­ter­oid – in our So­lar Sys­tem. In the fu­ture, tele­scopes will track any other space rocks pass­ing by.

Science Illustrated - - SCIENCE UPDATE -

ASTRON­OMY For years, as­tronomers be­lieved that as­ter­oids from other so­lar sys­tems were able to pass into our So­lar Sys­tem. But it was only re­cently that the the­ory was proved, when as­tronomer Rob Weryk from the US Univer­sity of Hawaii spot­ted a bright dot in the sky, which he had never ob­served be­fore.

The bright dot proved to be an as­ter­oid, which was briefly pass­ing by from an­other so­lar sys­tem. Sci­en­tists have cal­cu­lated that the as­ter­oid sped al­most ver­ti­cally down through the So­lar Sys­tem – in­stead of fol­low­ing a flat­ter path like other as­ter­oids.

The Sun’s grav­i­ta­tional field made the as­ter­oid take a hair­pin bend only to even­tu­ally dis­ap­pear in the di­rec­tion of the Pe­ga­sus con­stel­la­tion.

As­tronomers mea­sured the as­ter­oid’s ec­cen­tric­ity, which de­scribes how cir­cu­lar its path is. 0 in­di­cates a per­fect cir­cle, whereas 1 is el­lip­ti­cal. The vis­it­ing space rock was es­ti­mated to be 1.9, so its form is ex­tremely elon­gated.

The in­ter­stel­lar guest has a di­am­e­ter of 400 m and has been named A/2017 U1. Ac­cord­ing to as­tronomers, the rock has trav­elled for mil­lions or bil­lions of years.

On­go­ing ob­ser­va­tions will show if the as­ter­oid was alone or ac­com­pa­nied by other space rocks.

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