A mysterious asteroid detected speeding past the sun in October has been confirmed by scientists to be a visitor from outside our solar system, the first of its kind to be detected.
The interstellar rock is traveling at a speed that raised eyebrows amongst astronomers because it was fast enough to leave the sun’s orbit. Its trajectory is hyperbolic — meaning at a different angle to the plane that most objects orbiting the sun coalesce around.
Astronomers confirmed that the object, which they named ‘’Oumuamua’ after a Hawaiian term meaning scout or messenger, does in fact have interstellar origins, after an analysis found its speed would be impossible to achieve within this solar system.
They also believe that the object, which is dark — absorbing 96% of the light that hits it — could contain abundant hydrocarbons, the building blocks for life that many scientists believe first arrived on Earth from asteroids.
‘Oumuamua also appears similar to asteroids from our own solar system, the Guardian reports, a significant finding because it hints at similar conditions elsewhere in the galaxy, especially the star it formed in the orbit of.
Teams from Hawaii and Los Angeles studied the object independently. They discovered it has an elongated shape and is around 400 meters long, rotating once every 7.3 hours.
The Los Angeles team estimated that there could by 10,000 similar objects between the sun and Neptune.