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ISO: A home for a stray space rock. Astronomers are tracking the motions of stars to figure out which one sent an alien asteroid speeding past Earth in October — but they may never find the rock’s true origins.

Officially named ‘Oumuamua, the asteroid was spotted by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii on October 18 (SN: 11/25/17, p. 14). Its inbound speed of about 25.5 kilometers per second and its slingshot route around the sun pegged it as the first interstellar vagabond ever seen.

That was the easy part. Now astronomers are trying to trace ‘Oumuamua’s path backwards to a particular star or group of stars, without much success. Several papers published online since the asteroid’s flyby peg it as a relatively youthful vagabond, but where it came from is all over the map.

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Category: Science