It’s an interstellar object known as ‘Oumuamua, a moniker meant to reflect its standing as a messenger from the past, and the tale it has to tell certainly is an interesting one.
Scientists on Monday released a more detailed description of ‘Oumuamua, more formally known as 1I/2017 U1, which was first spotted streaking across the cosmos on Oct. 19. The object, originally designated as an asteroid, is now categorized as a metallic (or rocky), dark red, elongated, interstellar body that’s unlike any known asteroid previously found in the solar system.
“For decades we’ve theorized that such interstellar objects are out there, and now — for the first time — we have direct evidence they exist,” NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen said Monday in a news release.
‘Oumuamua was first spotted heading back to interstellar space by scientists using the Pan-Starrs 1 telescope in Hawaii. Other astronomers then began observing it with instruments including the Very Large Telescope operated by the European Southern Observatory in Chile, and the Gemini Observatory’s twin optical/infrared telescopes in Hawaii and Chile.
“‘Oumuamua may well have been wandering through the Milky Way, unattached to any star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with the Solar System,” says the European Southern Observatory.
One of the key findings from the combined observations is that the brightness of the object varies dramatically as it spins on its axis, changing in luminosity by a factor of 10 every 7.3 hours.
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