About a month ago, a speedy blip of light was seen moving through the sky by a telescope in Hawaii titled “PanSTARRS1.”
Some calculations were made, and the results were said to be unusual. The object is moving very fast, in an extremely eccentric position that could not even be confirmed as exactly an “orbit.”
The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center (MPC) believes it may have come from deep space: outside our Solar System, which is almost unheard of.
They’re suggesting it may be a comet that has left another star, which could make this the first solid documentation of an interstellar comet.
“If further observations confirm the unusual nature of this orbit, this object may be the first clear case of an interstellar comet,” the MPC announced.
It has been named Comet C/2017 U1.
— Michele Bannister (@astrokiwi) October 25, 2017
The incredibly fast moving object was spotted only after it was essentially ejected from our region of space by the Sun, flung back out toward the stars. It will probably never return: it sped past Earth at 24 million kilometers 2 weeks ago.
The object apparently came down on the ecliptic plane from 122 degrees, from the direction of a star named Vega in the constellation of Lyra. It’s path was not curved, as returning, orbiting comets have.
According to News.com.au:
“The object has just been through a close call (in Solar System terms): it came within 38 million km of our star before its momentum and the Sun’s gravity hurled it back outward.
Normally such a close pass would be fatal. But C/2017U1 was travelling too fast for the Sun’s heat to consume it.
It was moving at 26km per second when first observed.
Astronomers are now attempting to refine their observations and data to pinpoint exactly where it came from. If it truly is of interstellar origin, the next task is to find which star it is likely to have come from.
At the moment, it appears to have been somewhere in the direction of the star Vega.”
— Tony Dunn (@tony873004) October 25, 2017
(Image credit: Shutterstock)