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On October 19, 2017, astronomers discovered the first known interstellar object to visit our solar system. First spotted by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System 1 (PanSTARRS1) telescope located at the University of Hawaii's Haleakala Observatory, the object defied easy description, simultaneously displaying characteristics of both a comet and an asteroid.

Astronomers formally named the object 1I/2017 U1 and appended the common name 'Oumuamua, which roughly translates to "scout" in Hawaiian. Researchers from around the world raced to collect as much data as possible before 'Oumuamua traveled beyond the reach of Earth's telescopes. In all, they had only a few weeks to observe the strange visitor.

Early reports of 'Oumuamua's odd characteristics led some to speculate that the object could be an alien spacecraft, sent from a distant civilization to examine our star system. But a new analysis co-led by Matthew Knight, an associate research scientist in the University of Maryland Department of Astronomy, strongly suggests that 'Oumuamua has a purely natural origin. The research team reported their findings in the July 1, 2019, issue of the journal Nature Astronomy.

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Category: Science