A mysterious object detected hurtling past the sun could be the first space rock traced back to a different solar system, according to astronomers, The Guardian reported on Friday.
Named A/2017 U1, the small asteroid or comet is possibly the first interstellar object in the solar system seen from earth, Reuters reported. It was spotted earlier this month by a researcher at the University of Hawaii.
“The exciting thing about this is that this may be essentially a visitor from another star system,” Dr Edward Bloomer, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, said.
According to observations published by the Minor Planet Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the space rock was travelling fast enough to escape the sun’s gravitational pull.
It is about 400 metres in diameter and approached the solar system from the direction of the constellation Lyra – almost directly above the orbital plane of the planets and asteroids in the solar system – Reuters reported. Astronomers said that the object passed inside Mercury’s orbit on September 2 and travelled below the sun. It then took a sharp turn, slung by the sun’s gravity, and was heading back up through the orbital plane towards the stars beyond.